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Gun incident vexes Wiley principal

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An email sent by H.T. Wiley Intermediate School Principal Patricia B. LaBarr criticizes school board members for their handling of a student who she believes violated the federal Gun-Free School Act.

The email, leaked to the Times over the weekend and confirmed as authentic by Mrs. LaBarr, raises concerns that Watertown City School District Board of Education members did not take seriously enough an incident that took place at her school.

Mrs. LaBarr said her email was written about an incident involving a student who brought an Airsoft gun — a replica rifle commonly used to shoot BBs — to Wiley Intermediate School.

"Some said it was a toy gun, but toy gun or real gun, you can't bring those things to school," Mrs. LaBarr said Sunday, before referring additional questions — such as when the incident took place — to Superintendent Terry N. Fralick.

She confirmed that she had sent her note about the incident to board members and staff. The email contains criticism of the board's decision to keep the student in his class and refers to the student's return to class in two weeks.

Mrs. LaBarr's email expressed frustration that the board ignored her "recommendation of suspending (the student) until the end of the school year." She said that punishment was "more than fair," seeing as the Gun-Free Schools Act empowered the district to suspend the student for a full year.

The email exposes an apparent rift in how Mr. Fralick wanted to handle the situation and how the school board ultimately chose to handle it.

"As I told you when I met with you in executive session, I thought it was brilliant for Mr. Fralick to recommend that this student be moved to a different class upon the completion of his suspension," Mrs. LaBarr wrote. "In addition, it is something that is common practice after a serious violation of our Code of Conduct."

The email continues: "On Wednesday, May 4, Mr. Fralick told me that you upheld his recommendation for the student's return date of May 23, but overturned his recommendation to move him into another class."

In the email, she quotes a section of state penal law, which deals with the "unlawful possession of weapons by persons under sixteen."

Mr. Fralick said little on Sunday.

"All I can say is it is a student disciplinary matter that we've dealt with, but I can't confirm or deny or make a comment," he said.

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