Students returned to a Douglas County high school Friday morning, one day after a veteran teacher shot himself in his classroom office before students arrived.
It was a scenario the county’s school system and sheriff’s office had previously trained to handle: A shooter on campus. But this was no drill. About 7:15 a.m. Thursday, a Lithia Springs High School teacher used a handgun to shoot himself, Douglas sheriff’s Sgt. Jesse Hambrick said.
The teacher was able to make his way from his office to another area of the school, where a school employee came to his aid. Another colleague called 911, Hambrick said.
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The details of the shooting — whether it was intentional or accidental — were not known early Friday. It is illegal to have weapons on school property except in certain limited circumstances. The handgun involved was located and secured, Hambrick said.
As busloads of students arrived at the school Thursday, administrators shuffled them to the gym before anyone could head to class. Meanwhile, the teacher was taken to an undisclosed hospital, where he was in stable condition Thursday, Hambrick said.
Though no students were in danger and none witnessed the shooting, word spread quickly through the school community and classes were canceled Thursday. Students waited in the gym for buses to return to the school or for parents to pick them up.
“The most important thing we do as a school system is to keep our staff and students safe,” Superintendent Trent North said.
North, who took over the superintendent job June 1, asked for prayers for the school community, including students and teachers.
“You have family,” he said. “When one of your family is hurting, you hurt as well.”
Within four hours, all but four students had left the campus and the cleanup process began inside the building. It was quick work from deputies and school leaders that kept the scene calm, despite the constant chatter from students about what had happened.
“We take a bad situation and make it as good as we can,” Hambrick said.
It was not known Friday morning if any charges would be filed in the shooting, which remained an ongoing criminal investigation, the sheriff’s office said. While weapons are not allowed on campus there are no metal detectors to alert others if they are brought on campus, Hambrick said.
Details of the shooting spread quickly through social media, where Austin Miller, a 2010 graduate of Lithia Springs, was shocked to read the news.
Though he’s now a college graduate working in graphic design, Miller said he was in touch with several former classmates Thursday after hearing the news.
“We’re all in shock,” Miller said Thursday. “We are all sending up prayers for him.”
Grief counselors are at Lithia Springs to help students and staff affected by the shooting, Hambrick said.
—Staff photographer John Spink contributed to this article.
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