Superintendent: Potential tragedy prevented at William Penn

Jessica Schladebeck

Someone was able to get a gun into William Penn Senior High School Thursday, but school officials said effective security procedures prevented what could have been a shooting.

"The most important part of what happened today is that the system we have in place prevented what could have been a tragedy," Superintendent Eric Holmes said Thursday afternoon after the gun was found on school property. "We received the tip, we were informed, we enacted the lock-down and then we acted."

The York City high school was put on lock down around 9:45 a.m. after administration received a report of a gun on the premises. A credible tipster informed school officials they had seen a gun in a student's backpack and the York City School District and York City police departments were immediately notified, Holmes said.

William Penn remained under lock down for more than two hours, and students were dismissed at 12:20 p.m, after police determined there was no risk in releasing them, Holmes said.

York City School District Superintendent Eric B. Holmes

Following student dismissal, officers were able to conduct an extensive search of the building. An hour or so later they discovered a small handgun, said Holmes, who would not discuss the specific location where the weapon had been located.

A 16-year-old student is being charged with three separate gun possession charges by the York City Police Department. The teen was placed in York County Juvenile Detention, according to a press release from the police department.

Holmes said the investigation is ongoing, and it's up to the police to determine the student's motives.

Students entering the building are required to pass through metal detectors. It's unknown how the gun was able to make it into the building, past existing security measures, Holmes said.

"We are certainly going to get to the bottom of how the weapon got into the building," he said, noting the district will be investigating to "make sure that it never happens that way again."

All school events intended to take place this evening, including the high school's production of "Almost Maine" scheduled to begin at 6:30 p.m in the school auditorium, will go on as planned, Holmes said. Classes will resume for high school students tomorrow.

"We did this the right way," Holmes said. "We were able to send our students home safe and secure."

— Reach Jessica Schladebeck at