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Shaker Heights parents file complaint after 6-year-old accused of bringing ammunition to school

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Posted at 8:48 AM, Feb 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 13:29:53-05

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio — The family of a Shaker Heights first grader believes her school did not act properly when they accused the 6-year-old of bringing ammunition to school. Now they’re calling for a review of the district’s safety and bias training.

Jatanna Carter and Rashon Millin shared the January 17th body camera footage they obtained from Shaker Heights Police with News 5. It shows staff at Onaway Elementary explaining the incident to a police officer.

In the video, one staff member hands the officer a partially full box of ammunition after another explains a first-grade student gave it to the teacher's aid near the end of the school day. She says the boy told her he got it from Carter and Millin’s daughter.

Carter said the first she heard about the incident was when the police officer called her after school. But she didn’t hear from the school for several more hours.

“The police officer told us they had found bullets in my daughter’s bookbag during dismissal,” Carter recalled. “Where did she get them from? Because we don’t have guns or bullets in our home.”

She said her 6-year-old denied ever having the box in her backpack.

“She did tell us that she had seen the bullets all day, that all the children had been looking at the bullets and they were in certain kids’ hands all day long,” Carter said.

The mother of four had a meeting at the school the next morning but said she received little communication with the district, aside from several letters sent home to families in the class.

“[It said,] ‘The investigation is over. They don’t know where the bullets came from,’” she said. “That wasn’t enough for us. We don’t have access to bullets for our child. She shouldn’t be able to go to school and get bullets.”

Carter told News 5 she was unnerved that more wasn’t done when the ammunition was initially found. The incident happened less than two weeks after a Virginia teacher was shot by a 6-year-old student.

“Guns, gun paraphernalia, any type of weapon is prohibited on campus at Onaway,” she said. “They have a lockdown procedure. If something like that happens, lock that classroom down at the least.”

After Carter and her husband requested and reviewed the police body camera footage from Shaker Heights Police, the couple said they had more questions.

“So many implicit biases, so many,” Carter said. “I’m glad that she’s still 6 so it doesn’t hit as hard. But for us, it’s devastating.”

She explained the video revealed school staff did not call her family but immediately called the family of the boy who reported the ammunition. She also pointed out her daughter had never been in trouble before and was named an exemplary student earlier in the school year, but thought the staff was quick to assign blame.

“They asked, ‘Have you ever had a problem with [her] like this or her brother?’ And they’re like, ‘I don’t know.’ You know absolutely you didn’t,” Carter said. “She’s a great kid, she’s an asset to the community. Say that. Advocate for her. You’re not only there to teach her, you’re there to advocate, you’re there to protect her. And you did none of it.”

At Carter’s request, the first grader moved classes. The family has also filed a complaint with the school district.

The Shaker Heights City School District shared the following statement with News 5 about the incident and how it was handled:

“We took this incident very seriously and acted according to our safety protocols in notifying police, staff and families. Police came to the school, took statements about the incident and began an investigation. Our administrators spoke with the families of students involved in this incident.

“The investigation by police and our security staff concluded that a weapon was never present at the school. As we stated a week ago, we may never know exactly how the ammunition made its way into one of our classrooms. However, students and staff were never in danger. There was no threat.

“We have received a complaint from one family and are investigating that complaint. After this or any incident, we review and, when necessary, refine our procedures and protocols.” 

Carter and her husband believe school staff should have more training and preparation for such situations and want the staff involved to be held accountable.

“Get to the bottom of it, follow protocol, and don’t let implicit biases rule your judgment,” she said.

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