APD logoUPDATED Feb. 18: Some 160 people attended an online meeting convened by local authorities the evening of Tuesday, Feb. 13, to respond to public concerns about shell casings found Feb. 7 at Gibbs School.

"We had about 160 families in attendance. Sentiments were shared around concerns about the person who dropped the shell casings," said Weslie Etienne Pierre, spokeswoman for Arlington Public Schools. "Arlington Police Department restated their investigation process, which included reviewing the school security footage that showed when the casings were dropped."

She continued, "The person [had] picked up one and stated [that he was] unaware that three had actually fallen. He stated to police that he been wearing the same jacket at a gun range earlier and with casings flying everywhere. He stated [that] he did not know that they were in his pocket."

Going forward, Pierre said that the school district will be making enhancements to crisis communications protocols and that the chief of police has submitted information about the situation to the Cambridge Police Department, as they oversee licenses to carry for Cambridge residents. 

Panelists for the online meeting

-- Chief Julie Flaherty, Arlington Police Department;

-- Officer Bryan White, APS student resource officer, Arlington Police Department;

-- Dr. Elizabeth C. Homan, superintendent, Arlington Public Schools;

-- Weslie Etienne Pierre, director of communications and family engagement at APS; and

-- Cindy Sheridan-Curran, court liaison/attendance officer/diversion coordinator.

Some in town have had questions

On Feb. 7, staff discovery of the shells prompted a 2.5-hour shelter-in-place order; it was determined the same day that the two casings had been accidentally dropped by a campus visitor, and students were dismissed to return home at the usual time.

Local psychotherapist Katell Guellic spoke briefly during the public-comment section of the most recent meeting of the Arlington School Committee, which oversees the Arlington Public Schools. Gibbs is the APS campus for sixth-grade students -- and a location where some Arlington Community Education courses take place weekday evenings.

Guellic said at that Feb. 8 meeting that she was concerned about the effect of the temporary lockdown on students' mental health, that she considered the communications process to have been "sorely lacking" and suggested that robocalls be used instead of email. She also asked whether the person -- never publicly identified -- who had accidentally dropped the shells would be allowed back on campus for future ACE classes. As per standard protocol with regard to public comment, committee members did not respond.

A Feb. 11 statement from Pierre -- after the incident but before the forum -- was as follows:

"Thank you for your patience and support as we navigated the incident at the Gibbs School earlier this week. We understand that situations like these can bring up different emotions for students, staff and families. In an effort to provide transparent two-way communication, we would like to provide Arlington Public School families and community members the opportunity to engage in a community forum.

"Arlington Public Schools and Arlington Police Department are collaborating to host a virtual community forum. This will be an opportunity for the community to engage with APS and APD regarding the recent incident, have questions answered -- and hear how we will continue to work together to ensure our schools continue to be safe spaces for all."

Background about the incident

Through subsequent investigation on Feb. 7, Arlington Police connected the casings to an individual who had attended an event on campus the previous evening. That individual cooperated with police, who before noon Thursday, Feb. 8, had determined that the two casings were dropped by accident, and so police therefore closed the investigation. No charges will be filed, an updated news release said.

On the afternoon of Feb. 7, Flaherty and Homan had reported to the public that police were investigating after shell casings were found inside Gibb School earlier that day.

At about 9:30 a.m. Feb. 7, a staff member at the Gibbs School, 41 Foster St., informed School Resource Officer Bryan White that they had discovered two casings from a 9 mm handgun on the staircase of the main stairwell.  Additional officers responded.

Out of an abundance of caution, students and faculty were temporarily asked to shelter in place while K-9s searched the building. No additional casings or weapons were located.The shelter-in-place order was lifted at 12:05 p.m.

Police had an additional presence at the school for the remainder of the school day as a precautionary measure. Students were dismissed at 1:20 p.m., as Feb. 7 was a previously scheduled early-release day.

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This announcement was published Sunday, Feb. 11, 2024, based on an email from schools spokeswoman Weslie Etienne Pierre and on YourArlington's attendance at the Feb. 8 meeting of the Arlington School Committee. It was updated at 5 p.m. Monday, Feb. 12, with official word that all Arlington Public Schools campuses were to be closed on Tuesday, Feb. 13, due to expected heavy snow (which ultimately did not materialize); updated at 6 p.m. Monday, Feb 12, with word that the online public forum was to be cancelled; updated at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 13, to say that the forum was back on for that (original) date and to provide comprehensive connection information; and at 1 p.m Sunday, Feb. 18, with a brief report from the school district as a summary of that Feb. 13 evening online forum.