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Parents concerned after student with gun arrested at First Coast High School

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A 16-year-old student was arrested Tuesday after a loaded gun was found on the campus of First Coast High School, marking the fifth time a weapon was found at the school in 2017.

According to the police report, Michael Pratt was confronted by a school board police officer; he walked out of a classroom with the officer and admitted he had a gun in his possession.

Police said they found a 9-mm handgun with 10 rounds in it. The serial number had been altered, so police haven’t been able to trace it yet, according to the report

The arrest, which came in response to a student tip, has parents growing concerned about student safety.

The discovery follows similar incidents that led to five students' arrests in January and February. It has families trying to wrap their heads around why students are bringing weapons to school.

Carmen Cain, whose son attends First Coast, said that even though she's tired of students bringing weapons to the school, she suspects they do it out of fear.

"I don't believe it's them trying something to harm the school," said Cain. "I believe it's trying to be safe outside of the school."

That's something her 17-year-old son, Roger, agreed with. He's gotten used to weapons being found at the school, but said he still feels safe there in spite of these incidents.

"It's disappointing that my generation has to resort to these things, but it's kind of understandable because of the environment some of these people are in," the sophomore said.

According to records compiled by News4Jax over the past five years, First Coast is tied with Ribault and Westside High for having the highest number of students caught with weapons at school.

Last school year, for instance, three guns and a stun gun were found at First Coast. That included two 17-year-old boys arrested a week apart with guns belonging to their parents, two teenage girls arrested for having a taser and a 16-year-old arrested with a gun.

Cain, whose family moved from Detroit, believes there's something the district could do immediately to reduce the problem: Install metal detectors to screen students entering school.

"I believe they just need to get some metal detectors because I'm not from here and we have metal detectors where I'm from," she said.

Sheriff Mike Williams and former Superintendent Nikolai Vitti discussed metal detectors in schools earlier this year. But both agreed that they didn't think that technology would provide a solution and urged greater supervision of students by parents instead.

The Duval County school district said there is always at least one school resource officer present on campus. In addition, district staff reminded parents to check what their students are taking to school with them.

News4Jax has included below the transcript of an automated call by Principal Timothy Simmons to parents following Tuesday's incident:

A loaded firearm was discovered in a student’s possession and was confiscated. The student was taken into custody and arrested, and will face criminal charges as well as possible expulsion.  No students or staff were threatened or harmed during this incident.

While we are very pleased with the responsiveness and cooperation of our students, staff and security teams, we request your parental support. Please talk with your children about the serious consequences of bringing a firearm or weapon on campus. Encourage positive conflict resolution strategies and emphasize the importance of notifying a trusted adult whenever your child feels threatened.

In addition, we ask that you monitor your child’s belongings and the items he or she may bring to school. Please continue to partner with us in keeping First Coast High School a safe and effective learning environment. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me at (904) 757-0080. Thank you and have a great afternoon.