MEDFORD — The principal of one of the city’s middle schools is on administrative leave after school officials concluded he may have thrown out a loaded ammunition magazine while cleaning out his office in late December.
Mayor Stephanie M. Burke held a press conference Thursday and said that McGlynn Middle School principal Jake Edwards had been put on paid administrative leave as the city continues to investigate why the discovery of the magazine in the school auditorium on Dec. 29 was not promptly shared with her office and Medford police.
Police Chief Leo Sacco said there were “at least three, maybe four bullets” in the magazine, which was found during school vacation.
Burke said she did not learn of the discovery until last Friday. Police were also kept in the dark until then, the mayor said.
Burke said the way the episode was handled was “unacceptable” and “put our entire community at grave risk.”
“I am both professionally and personally astounded that I was not informed immediately of the incident,” Burke said.
“I am deeply concerned about the way this matter was handled by the school administration, the lack of attention to the potential threat the situation imposed, and the lack of notice and communication with police personnel, as well as my office,” she said.
In a statement posted on the school system’s website, Superintendent Roy Belson wrote that a cleaning company found the magazine under a seat in the auditorium and turned it over to the school custodian, who locked it up in the principal’s office. Belson wrote that the magazine may have been thrown out the following day. “Edwards was in his office on December 30, 2017, for the purpose of cleaning his office and he claims he threw several items away that could have included the clip,” Belson wrote.
At Thursday’s press conference Burke announced that Martha Coakley, the former attorney general, will investigate the matter.
Burke also said Medford police and other law enforcement agencies conducted a sweep of the city’s schools, with dogs, on Thursday. The police chief said that by mid-morning no contraband had been found.
Sacco said Medford’s schools are safe and asked the public to assist in the investigation. It was unclear how the ammunition magazine got to the school.
“Someone out there must know something about this,” Sacco said.
He said it’s possible it was inadvertently left behind by a lawful gun owner. “We hope it’s something as simple as that,” he said. If that is the case, “we ask that person to come forward.”
The mystery has put the school community on edge.
Cheryl Rodriguez was among several concerned residents who attended the press conference at City Hall. She said she was upset about how the situation was handled and the lack of communication between parents and city and school officials.
“When things happen at the school, the parents need to know, and they need to know right away,” she said. “I don’t want to wait to hear it on the news at 6 o’clock tonight.”
City Councillor Breanna Lungo-Koehn also attended the press conference and expressed frustration over the unanswered questions.
“How did it get there?” she said. “Was it placed there? Was it dropped there? How did it get there?”Emily Sweeney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney.