‘I’d hate to get killed on my birthday:’ Inside the lockdown at Madison County High School

A student was found Thursday with a handgun on campus and detained
Madison County High School student found with gun on campus
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 1:36 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 30, 2023 at 11:10 PM EDT
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MADISON COUNTY, Fla. (WCTV) - After a student at Madison County High School was found with a handgun Thursday morning, placing the school on lockdown, substitute teacher Mary Blackmon found herself facing a room full of scared children.

It was supposed to be a joyous class. It was one student’s birthday.

“I’d hate to get killed on my birthday,” he said.

Blackmon was nervous. The room filled with jitters.

So she prayed.

“We’re all going to take a silent prayer and God will take care of you,” she responded.

Just before 11 a.m. Thursday, a student spotted a male classmate with a concealed handgun at the school and alerted faculty, said Madison County Schools Superintendent Shirley Joseph. A school resource officer worked with sheriff’s deputies that arrived on the scene to locate and arrest the student “within minutes” and seize the gun, the statement said. The school was later released from lockdown.

But in the moments leading up to that clearance, students and staff sat behind locked doors in quiet classrooms. They waited.

“It’s just terrible,” Blackmon said. “People think they can send their children to school and they are going to be safe. And it just doesn’t work out that way, so they were scared. We were all a little bit nervous.”

The superintendent said the district trains and prepares for these incidents, and they are taken seriously.

The sheriff’s office said the gun was not loaded and was concealed on the student’s body. While Joseph did confirm the student was male and under the age of 18, officials declined to provide more details such as the student’s name or exact age. It is also unclear why the student had the gun or if he had any plans to use it.

“I’m so thankful that we did remain calm and follow protocol and follow our training and secure the weapon before he was able to use it,” the superintendent said.

Officials kept the school under lockdown while officials interviewed witnesses, said Captain Epp Richardson, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office public information officer.

The sheriff’s office said the investigation is ongoing. It is unclear at this time if the student will be charged, or what charges they will face.

Although many neighboring counties ban students from returning to campus if they bring a weapon to school, Madison County Schools superintendent said it is not certain if the student will be expelled or banned from campus.

The incident in Madison County comes as the nation grapples with a school shooting in Nashville, Tenn. earlier this week. A former student opened fire Monday at The Covenant School, a private elementary school, killing three 9-year-old students and three adult staff members.

The Big Bend has seen a number of school lockdowns due to students with weapons this year, including two incidents at Leon High School. At the end of last month, an 18-year-old Leon High School student was arrested for possession of a loaded handgun and marijuana on campus.