A Bayshore High School student was arrested Tuesday and charged with bringing a loaded gun to the school, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
The school district already had a no-backpack policy planned for all middle and high schools starting Thursday for the remaining three days of the school year as all those days are early-release. But because of what happened at Bayshore on Tuesday, they moved the ban up for that high school starting Wednesday.
Around 11:45 a.m., school resource deputies were alerted by the school's staff that a student was armed with a gun.
School officials received the information from other students.
Deputies soon found Alejandro Diaz, a 16-year-old sophomore, with a loaded handgun in his waistband.
They arrested him and charged him with possession of a firearm on school grounds, carrying a concealed firearm and possession of a firearm by a juvenile, the sheriff's office said.
Diaz was transported to the juvenile booking facility.
No one was injured during the incident and an investigation is ongoing.
The following message was sent out to parents Tuesday evening:
Parents, this is Bayshore High Principal Wendell Butler calling to give you the facts about a serious incident that took place on our campus today. First, I want to assure you our students and staff are safe and the incident that occurred was handled swiftly and professionally. During the school day, school staff and our School Resource Officer were informed that a student had allegedly brought a handgun onto our campus. The suspected student was apprehended by our SRO and a handgun was found in the student’s possession. The student was arrested and will face serious criminal charges as well as severe school district discipline. The student arrested will no longer be allowed on our campus. To enhance security at our school for the final days this year, we will increase the use of metal detectors, enhancing other security measures and we are instituting a no backpack policy beginning tomorrow. Also, I want to remind all students that any threats of violence made against our school, even if made in jest, will lead to arrest and prosecution to the fullest extent of the law. Again, I want to assure you that our students and staff are safe and I thank you for your understanding and continued support of Bayshore High.
Several parents complained that it took the district and school too long to notify them about the incident, with many saying they first learned about it from their children or the media.
In response to that, the district says that school staff and law enforcement were still dealing with the issue late into the school day and had Diaz in custody and the gun confiscated and there was no discernible danger to students or staff at that point.
"As always, in these kinds of cases, they wanted to get a full accounting of the facts so that the information they provided to parents would be thorough and instructive," the district's spokesperson said. "We are grateful for the swift and professional way this was handled and the staff at Bayshore High and law enforcement deserve our thanks."
The incident comes less than a week after Friday's deadly mass shooting at Santa Fe High School in southeast Texas that left 10 people dead.
It also comes just a few weeks after the Manatee County Commission voted to not share in the cost of additional school security required by a new law that followed the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
The Parkland bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott in March requires districts to secure every school with either law enforcement officers or "school guardians." As a result, the district has to add an additional 35 school resource officers, which it voted to do shortly before the law was enacted.
The school district did receive state money for security but not enough needed to increase the number of deputies to cover Manatee schools.
So, after the commission's vote, the school district announced it may employ armed security personnel, not active law enforcement, for the additional security as a cost-saving measure.
They plan to hire about 40 guardians through the Coach Aaron Feis Guardian Program. The plan, which is funded by a pool of $67 million, is named after the football coach who died while shielding students during the Stoneman Douglas shooting.
Per the program, guardians do not have the authority to make arrests or act in other law enforcement capacities. They would be employed by the school district and trained by the sheriff's office.