Wynbrooke Elementary School principal Jermain Sumler-Faison (right) and Sean Tartt (center), DeKalb County Region-3 Superintendent, listen to a speaker during an information session at Wynbrooke Elementary School in Stone Mountain, Tuesday, April 30, 2019. The DeKalb County Schools Police Department has a warrant out for a juvenile suspect who is accused of firing a pellet gun at students while playing on a playground on the Wynbrooke Elementary School campus last week. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer
Photo: Alyssa Pointer

DeKalb parents call for better communication amid school shooting

The teenager accused of shooting 10 elementary school students with a pellet gun remains on the loose as parents press DeKalb County School District officials for more transparency during emergency situations.

Tuesday night, Wynbrooke Elementary School parents accused district officials of poor communication after the shooting, as many said they found out from friends and through news reports hours after investigators had swarmed the school.

Several mentioned not hearing from the district about the shooting at all, but getting phone calls from the district about a town hall featuring Superintendent Steve Green scheduled for that evening.

District officials addressed more than 100 school staff members, parents and students Tuesday night at the Stone Mountain school to give them an update on the increased police presence, as well as making them aware that counselors would continue to be on the grounds to talk with students.

“I know the No. 1 priority is to secure our kids, but I do believe there should have been some better ways to let us know what was going on,” said parent Lee May, the former DeKalb County CEO and pastor of Transforming Faith Church, from a microphone positioned in the middle of the school’s cafeteria.

Laurie Thomas of Stone Mountain, mother of a Wynbrooke third-grader, said she received an email from the school about three hours after the shooting.

“What was going on … was not communicated to us as parents in a timely manner, or as fast as we think it should have been, especially since we were getting calls from parents and other people at different places telling us what was going on and asking us about how our kids were doing and we had no idea,” she said. “We were freaking out.”

Arrest warrants were issued for a teenage male accused of injuring the Wynbrooke Elementary School students late the morning of April 25, while they were outside the school for recess.

Officials searched a home last week where the teen was staying and retrieved the pellet gun used in the attack.

DeKalb County Schools Police Department Chief Bradley Gober said silver pellets were retrieved and are being examined to determine the material from which they are made. He said it could take months before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation could determine as much.

Wynbrooke Principal Jermain Sumler-Faison said students initially were treated for scrapes they could have received playing on the playground. A school nurse later alerted her to the fact that the wounds could be more serious than originally thought.

“It wasn’t until law enforcement arrived and started looking at the wounds … that we were clear what was going on around us,” she said. “The wounds looked different. They looked like scratches. Then, on some of the students, it was a puncture.”

The DeKalb superintendent told parents the district’s department was doing everything it could do to help apprehend the suspect. After the school’s police department secures a warrant, he said the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office is tasked with taking the teen into custody.

“I don’t like it, either,” Green told a frustrated parent. “I agree with you. We’re committed to doing everything we can do. The system is bigger than us. We’re helping the other jurisdiction do what they need to do.”

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