Stephenson High School students walk past DeKalb County SWAT officers outside the school Tuesday morning, Aug. 13, 2019. Officers burst into classrooms with guns drawn after a student reported seeing an armed classmate. The gun scare prompted a heavy police presence, road closures and a Level 3 lockdown at the school on Stephenson Road in Stone Mountain. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Gun report puts DeKalb high school on lockdown; teen arrested

DeKalb County’s Stephenson High School was placed on lockdown Tuesday morning — less than two weeks into the school year — after a student said she saw someone with a gun.

A 14-year-old was arrested in connection with the incident. Details about the suspect and the charges had not been released late Tuesday afternoon.

“The investigation remains ongoing,” district spokeswoman Portia Kirkland said in a statement. “The district will provide updates as they are made available.”

Students, all safe, returned to class at the Stone Mountain school within hours, with a heavier police presence and some still shaken.

Some parents channeled their anger toward the school district, saying they were not alerted about a possible problem. None of the approximately 50 parents camped out at police roadblocks near the school said they had received an alert.

Vernon Comer said he got a text from his daughter, junior Elizabeth Comer, who told him school officials said a “person brought a gun to school.”

“I (am) just waiting to hear something official,” Vernon Comer said standing outside the school Tuesday morning. “My daughter keeps texting me.”

District officials said parents were alerted before a public statement was released. Parents have to opt in to receive the school- and district-level alerts, sent primarily through text and email.

Superintendent Steve Green, during a public meeting with parents at Stone Mountain’s Wynbrooke Elementary School several months ago related to another shooting involving students there being shot by a pellet gun, said district protocol was for emergency personnel and the central office to be informed almost simultaneously before the information is then sent to parents and ultimately released to the public and media.

Nanette Wright said her son, Xavier McArn, sent her a text saying the school was on lockdown and that a female student told school officials she saw another student from an alternative school get on a school bus with a gun.

“The SWAT team busted in and pointed a gun around the room,” he told his mom in the text. “When there was no threat we were told to stay on the floor.”

Savi’on Brooks-Auburt, a senior, said he and his classmates assumed it was a drill until officers burst into their classroom with guns drawn. Several scenarios ran through the 17-year-old’s head: a drug search; a shooter.

When information was scarce, he had to get his emotions under control, he said.

“First, I had to pray,” he said. “I just prayed about it, and then I had to let it be in His hands and go about the day.”

Tamonia Leonard’s freshman daughter, Aanylah Booker, doesn’t have a cellphone, but that may soon change.

“There were all kinds of thoughts running through my head,” said Leonard, referring to recent mass shootings in Gilroy, Calif., El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. “I might have to rethink that no-phone policy.”

Ed Long, a Stephenson alum, football team chaplain and radio host on Praise 102.5, said the deeper issue is communication.

“This whole scenario is not characteristic of our community,” he said. “I’m grateful nobody was hurt, but we need to get to know our young people better. We need to have real relationships with them. If we better understand their feelings we won’t be caught off guard.”

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