A first-grade student in Sanford threatened to bring a gun to school after being asked by a teacher to let another student have a turn on a swing during recess, according to a letter the school sent to parents.

The principal of Margaret Chase Smith School, Chuck Potter, informed families of the situation in a letter dated Friday. The letter was posted to a local Facebook group, generating intense discussion in the community at a time of hypervigilance because of school shootings and security threats.

“I am writing to make you aware of an incident that occurred on the playground this week between two 1st grade students at recess,” Potter wrote. “We determined that a student was asked by a teacher to let another student have a turn on the swing, and the student who was on the swing responded by saying they were going to bring in a gun to school.”

The school investigated and determined there was no viable threat.

“Considering the age of the student, appropriate consequences were given,” Potter wrote, without describing the school’s specific response.

The situation garnered considerable attention on Facebook. One woman, Kate Riley, posted multiple videos in which she said her daughter was involved in the situation. She gave a different version of events from what the school described and said her daughter was bullied, and that the threat was specifically against her child.


“The way that the letter sounds, they are just kind of brushing it under the table,” Riley said. “Instead of getting off the swing, he looked at her and said ‘I’m going to bring a gun to school and kill you.’”

Riley said she did not know about the threat until her daughter told her about it after school Wednesday. She said the school should have notified her and it should have taken stronger action. “Until the investigation is complete, the child needs to be removed from school and given a psychological evaluation,” she said.

Riley said her daughter was upset about the threat, but wanted to return to school. A school counselor did meet with her, Riley said.

Sanford Superintendent David Theoharides said the school chose to send the letter home, in part, because of the information spreading online, and to notify the broader community.

“We wanted to make sure people knew we had it under control and there wasn’t any threat,” he said.

Theoharides said administrators contacted police and the parents of the student who made the threat.


“The important part is, it is 6- and 7-year-old children,” he said. “Not that it makes it any less serious. But it’s not like two high school kids talking about it, either.”

Theoharides said he saw the wave of reaction online and viewed the situation in the broader context of the heightened tension around school safety after the deadly shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“We’re also just baffled by the abundance of comments on Facebook about this,” he said. “I’m blown away by it. We take it very, very seriously.

“A few weeks ago after Parkland, we had interviews about what we were doing. And I can understand with the amount of stuff on the TV and in the newspaper, little kids sitting there hearing this stuff. I think he was a little kid who got angry he got taken off the swing and said something he shouldn’t have said.”

Matt Byrne can be contacted at 791-6303 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MattByrnePPH

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