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Safety incidents reported Friday at 2 Howell County schools


Two incidents Friday resulted in action taken to ensure school safety at the West Plains district school buildings and Willow Springs Middle School.

At about 9 a.m. Friday morning, law enforcement reported to West Plains R-7 school district officials that a man was seen on East Main Street with a firearm. No threats were made toward the school, according to R-7 Director of Communications Lana Snodgras, but staff and students in the three school buildings were instructed to clear hallways and common areas and move to rooms with locking doors.

It was later learned the man was not carrying a firearm and there was no threat to the schools, she added, and building activities returned to normal soon after the incident.

West Plains School Resource Officer Conner Burnes, in his report, said a citizen had reported to the Howell County Sheriff's Office a man with a firearm was running in the area, and law enforcement were searching for him near St. Mary's Church off of Bill Virdon Boulevard.

School resource officers with the West Plains Police Department and sheriff's office overheard the information and notified the school district as a precautionary measure, Burnes added.

The suspect was later located by deputies with no firearm in his possession and the temporary hold of class changes was lifted, he said.

On Friday afternoon, Willow Springs School District Superintendent Dr. Marty Spence sent a message to parents and guardians that a middle school student was found to have an Airsoft gun in a backpack, but at no time were students in danger.

Spence pointed out he couldn't go into details about the incident due to federal privacy laws, but added he believed it was important the information that could be disclosed was shared with school patrons.

Airsoft guns are battery-powered guns that come in a variety of realistic looking firearms models, and are designed to shoot plastic BBs.

Both Snodgras and Spence reassured parents and guardians procedures to protect the safety of staff and students were followed, and Spence added there are disciplinary consequences "for possession of items that cause a disturbance in the school setting and the possession of dangerous weapons or look-alike weapons," and invited anyone with further questions that could be answered under legal privacy guidelines to contact the school at 417-469-3260.