Even with a fake toy gun, officers have a hard time distinguishing, especially when they are about 15 feet away. The toys look like the real thing. (WRDW-TV / Jan. 10, 2012)
News 12 This Morning / Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- The recent death of a Texas eighth grader was a tragedy that could potentially happen in any middle school, and public safety officers in our own schools have a tough time distinguishing between toys and the real thing.
It's the first line of defense when the situation gets dangerous for school resource officers like Monica Belser.
"We are faced with situations daily that could potentially lead to unfortunate incidences such as the one in Texas," she said.
That incident involved an eighth grader in Brownsville, Texas, who brought a pellet gun to school. Officers thought it was real and when he refused to lower the gun, he was shot and killed.
Patrick Clayton, chief of school public safety, explained, "In a high-stress situation, you don't have time to analyze the gun."
Even when you do have time, can you tell the Glock lookalike from the real thing? Pistols identical to some of the guns law enforcement officers carry inside the school were seized from students in Richmond County.
Even with a fake toy gun, officers have a hard time distinguishing, especially when they are about 15 feet away. The toys look like the real thing.
Darryl Barksdale, a parent of four children, says he never lets his two sons use their toy weapons without his supervision.
"Sit down with your child, discuss the possibilities, the dangerous possibilities," Barksdale said.
Federal law requires toy guns to come with an orange tip, but that doesn't apply to air soft guns, making it harder to distinguish from the real thing.
"Students do it as show and tell, but they don't realize how we have to look at it because we have hundreds of lives to protect," Belser said.
Safety officers are trained to rely on tips from students and take away the fake guns before they fall into the wrong hands.
"We would probably have a better chance of talking a student down because we have established relationships with them," Clayton said.
If a student gets caught with a toy gun at school, the school can take action through suspension or expulsion. Some states are trying to crack down on these toy lookalikes, but in Georgia there is no such legislation.