Westport schools secure, officials say, after dud grenade prompts evacuation
Published 5:34 am, Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Westport school officials said Tuesday they are confident the town's schools are safe and their emergency-management policies will keep them secure, a day after Coleytown Elementary School was evacuated and police alerted when a student brought to school a device initially feared to be a live grenade.
The grenade had been deactivated, a later investigation determined.
Superintendent of Schools Elliot Landon said Tuesday that as soon as Coleytown Principal Janna Bell learned Monday afternoon that a student had brought what he said was a hand grenade to school, she immediately ordered evacuation of the building in compliance with school district procedures. She called 911, and police and emergency crews responded quickly, he said.
"I'm very pleased with the way the principal handled this," Landon said. "She followed through appropriately."
The superintendent said he had heard from one parent who thought that police should investigate whether the student's family has other weapons in their home. The police, he said, would routinely investigate the student's family in the wake of such an incident.
The Westport schools distribute a handbook at the beginning of each school year to parents that outlines acceptable student behavior.
The grenade incident, Landon said, is not expected to prompt school officials to revise their policies.
"As a result of this," he said, "I think we'll just reinforce with teachers the need to reinforce with kids that they shouldn't bring any toy guns or knives or any kinds weapons to school grounds, because there are consequences if they do."
The incident took place sometime after 3 p.m. Monday when, according to Westport police Capt. Sam Arciola, a teacher monitoring the bus line at Coleytown Elementary School overheard one student tell another that he had brought a grenade to school that day.
The boy was called to Principal Bell's office. When the student produced the device and Bell saw what it was, she pulled a fire alarm about 3:45 p.m. to trigger the school's evacuation, Arciola said.
Emergency services were called, and examined the grenade still lying on the principal's desk. After turning it over they quickly determined that the pineapple grenade had been hollowed out and all its internal components removed, Arciola said.
The grenade was removed without incident, he added.
Bell, who did not return calls for comment, in an e-mail to Coleytown parents, said: "Today a child brought in an instrument that looked like a hand grenade. Upon learning of this information, I immediately evacuated the building and followed our emergency procedures. All students and staff are safe. We worked collaboratively with the Westport Police Department to determine the object was a grenade that had all of its explosive elements removed and at no point was it a threat or danger to the school."
In her e-mail, Bell said the town's school officials take "very seriously the obligation to keep children safe. We are grateful for the rapid response of the Westport Emergency Services in assisting us with this matter."
The boy had been given the grenade by a relative and had apparently brought it to school to show friends, Arciola said.
Arciola said any disciplinary action will be handled by the school and not police.