A shooting at a junior high school in Pine Bluff, Ark., left one student injured on Monday, the authorities said.
The student was in serious condition, said Kelvin Sergeant, the chief of the Pine Bluff Police Department. The Watson Chapel School District first reported there had been a shooting at 11:37 a.m., saying on Facebook that Watson Chapel Junior High School had been locked down. The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department and the Pine Bluff police were at the scene, it added.
A few minutes later, the school said that the shooting was “an isolated incident” and that the parent of the injured student had been notified. The school district and the Pine Bluff police did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Just after noon, the district said in a post addressed to parents, “All students are safe!”
Monday was the first day of a return to in-person instruction for the school in Pine Bluff, a city of about 43,000, about 44 miles south of Little Rock. The district had been conducting online learning after a week of subfreezing temperatures and two snowstorms that caused leaks and line breaks from a lack of water pressure.
The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department referred inquiries to the Pine Bluff Police Department, which did not respond to requests for more information.
An eighth-grade student, Travis Harden, told a local TV station, Fox 16, that he was in a hallway in the school when he heard three gunshots. “Everybody just started running from where the bullets came from,” he said. “I didn’t know what to do. I just sat still.”
Though gun violence at schools has declined with the shift to remote classes during the coronavirus pandemic, the shooting Monday was a reminder of a time, not long ago, when guns in schools were a persistent problem and source of fear. Twenty-five shootings were recorded in 2019, including many minor incidents that never received major news coverage, according to an Education Week database, which tracked shootings on K-12 school property that resulted in firearm-related injuries or deaths. In 2020, that number dropped to 10.