Last Thursday, Atherton Police arrested a student for possession of a firearm and took them into custody. The school had called the police and located the student before the school day had even begun. 

Atherton Police Department Commander Dan Larsen said, 

“At 9:37 am, the Atherton Department of Police received a call from M-A staff advising they received an anonymous tip that a student was in possession of a firearm. The person who made the anonymous tip provided the student’s identifying information.

When the student arrived on campus, they went to the office and were kept there by school staff.  With police officers present, school staff conducted an administrative search of the student and located a firearm in the student’s waistband.

In an email to M-A parents after school on Thursday, Principal Karl Losekoot wrote, “Although nothing in our preliminary fact-finding leads to the conclusion that the student was intending to use the firearm on campus, I recognize that any weapon on our campus poses a risk to our entire school community.”

Larsen continued, “The firearm was a Sig Sauer P226 9mm pistol with one round chambered and nine rounds in the magazine.” The student was taken into custody for having a firearm at a public school and carrying a concealed weapon.

Administrators didn’t mention anything about this incident to students, despite this being an issue that concerns the entire school population. The first time families heard any mention of a gun on campus was through Losekoot’s message above, to parents. Sophomore Benji Weiss said, “I first heard about it from my parents after school when they got the email.”

English teacher Susie Choe said that in the email administration sent out to teachers, “We were told, ‘If you want to have more information, you can stay after school and we might be able to answer some questions.’”

Weiss said, “I’m very surprised that we heard nothing, because this seems actually important and like a threat to people’s security.” He added, “I was initially scared, but now that I’m thinking about it I realize that it’s probably nothing compared to what we don’t hear about.” 

Senior Nicole Harris said, “I’m just saddened because this could’ve been so much worse if nobody had reported rumors of the student potentially coming onto campus with a firearm and police hadn’t been alerted.” 

Choe said, “It was a little shocking to hear. I asked, you know, ‘Will the students know about this?’ And we were told that the families were getting information. I do think it was the right move to send out information to the family and the communities. Today is our first day back from a three-day weekend, so administrators might address the incident sometime this week. Now that it is public knowledge, I do think administrators should address it, but I’m not going to hold it on them right now and say it was bad on them for not telling kids.”

M-A has dealt with several other incidents surrounding gun safety in recent years: a student brought a loaded gun to school in 2017, a photo prompted a school-wide lockdown in 2018, Atherton Police arrested a 16-year-old who brought a gun onto campus during the 2019 graduation ceremony, and M-A went into lockdown on the second day of hybrid learning in 2021. Though the 2018 lockdown turned out to be a false alarm, gun violence threats at M-A and surrounding schools remain a cause for concern.

Losekoot continued, “The safety and well-being of our school community will always be our top priority. For that reason, I would like to thank our Vice Principal team for both creating a culture of trust within our community and for creating clear procedures for when such a situation arises.  It was that trust that allowed us to obtain the information and it was our clear processes that led to the removal of a weapon from our school today.”

To minimize the number of future incidents like this, Harris said, “M-A could poll students on what would make M-A a safer campus. I think just getting students to talk about this, keep a serious tone about it all, and emphasize the reality of shootings and their options for seeking help is important to overall campus safety.” 

Choe said, “Start talking to people about it. Talk to adults and see what adult perspectives are. Go talk to administrators; they have a reason for not sending the information out to students—what is that reason? And if you don’t agree with that reason, maybe push back that way.”

When asked about a message he’d like to send to students regarding this incident, Losekoot said, “Students can report behavior that is concerning directly to the AVP office; they can write an anonymous note and drop it off in the AVP office, or they can call the school line at 650-322-5311 and make a report over the phone; students or families can also make a phone call to Atherton Police.”

To those concerned about their safety on campus, Choe said, “I would say it is a valid concern. Especially in this current era where we’re having so many school shootings—we just had one last night [Sunday, November 13] at the University of Virginia. It seems like every time you turn on the TV, there’s another school shooting.”

She reassured students, “We are more than willing to talk to students who are feeling unsafe. And if you tell us exactly what’s making you feel unsafe, we can try and help address it.”

This article has been republished on 11/15/2022 after the Atherton Police Department responded for comment and updated on 11/16/2022 after school administration provided a response.

Megan Lam is a senior and a first-year journalist. They are excited to further their writing skills this year and contribute stories about issues relevant to the M-A community. Megan enjoys spending time with friends in their free time, and they have been on M-A's badminton team since freshman year.

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