Police: Student with gun at First Coast High ‘threatened to shoot up the school'

3 guns brought to Oceanway school in last 3 weeks

By Francesca Amiker - Reporter , Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter , Erik Avanier - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A student was found Wednesday with a gun in his possession at First Coast High School after he was overheard threatening "to shoot up the school," the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office said.

Anthony Whitehead, 16, was arrested on a charge of possession of a firearm on campus. 

According to his arrest report, the gun, which was located in the student's shorts, had not been reported stolen, but there was no indication if it was loaded. 

His mother was notified, but she told police that she knew nothing about any guns. 

On Friday, News4Jax went to the address listed on the arrest report to talk to the student's mother, but the woman who answered the door did not wish to talk. 

A neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous, said he recognized the student's mugshot. 

"He's a child. I got my nephews who used to hang around with this kid. It's just sad," the neighbor said.

There have been nine guns, including one starter pistol, found at Duval County schools since the school year began, according to district officials. 

Wednesday was the fifth weapon-in-school arrest at First Coast High School in less than a month.

Officials said tips from students led to Wednesday's arrest and an arrest Jan. 25 at First Coast. A student tip also led to the arrest of two students Jan. 26 at First Coast after police said they brought a stun gun to school.

First Coast High School held a parent meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday to address the issues regarding weapons on campus.

Principal Timothy Simmons reminded parents of the meeting in a letter that was sent home with students Wednesday about the arrest. In the copy of the letter a parent forwarded to News4Jax, Simmons wrote that no students or staff were injured in the incident. 

"Additionally, this student will face discipline according to the Student Code of Conduct, which may include expulsion," Simmons wrote. "As I have stated each time incidents like this occur, we cannot sacrifice the safety of our students and staff. Far too often, students say they bring weapons for protection when they leave our school or try to sell them. There is no valid reason to bring any weapon to First Coast High School."

In the letter, Simmons reminded parents, "Keep discussing consequences resulting from making bad decisions, and encouraging your children to report any unsafe situations or possible weapons in the school to an adult."

A letter was also sent home with Chaffee Trail Elementary School students Wednesday about a gun found with the belongings of a student, and an 18-year-old was arrested Wednesday at Ed White High after police said he brought a gun and drugs to campus.

Guns in Duval County schools

Information from the News4Jax archives and Duval County Public Schools shows the number of gun in school incidents and arrests each school year. Some incidents led to multiple arrests.

Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti sent the following statement to News4Jax on Wednesday night about the recent spike in weapons found in schools:

"As I always indicate, one weapon brought to school is too many. Today, several were identified in schools throughout Jacksonville regardless of ZIP code.
Thankfully, we have no evidence to indicate that students planned to use them at the school. This has been the case with each weapon discovered at schools over the years.
To stop these incidents from reoccurring, we need active parent and guardian involvement. Weapons are arriving to our schools from homes and neighborhoods. We will continue to conduct random searches, which we have expanded, and will continue to actively investigate tips and student behavior. However, parents and guardians must check children’s belongings from backpacks to vehicles before school. More importantly, they must monitor their children’s friends and peer groups, including social media activity and activities outside of the home.
Bringing a weapon to school is completely unacceptable. We have, and will, continue to apply expulsion and criminal charges to any student who brings a weapon to school. As a society, though, we must also begin to hold our parents and guardians accountable to the expectation that their involvement and supervision is critical to protecting the safety of their children and also those of the greater society, including school personnel and other children.
We encourage students to continue to own the safe school environment they demand by informing personnel of the presence of weapons. In turn, as a team of educators, we will continue to forge relationships with students, parents, and the community to prevent incidents like these from occurring.” 

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