The 12-year-old boy accused of trying to shoot his teacher in the face was escorted by a bailiff into a hushed courtroom Monday as his family looked on from the courthouse benches. The boy, wearing a blue jumpsuit and handcuffs, sat quietly next to his attorney with his hands clasped, occasionally fidgeting with his chains, as the presiding judge pondered whether the hearing should be held privately.
Before ordering members of the public to leave the courtroom, Scott County presiding Judge Christine Dalton said the boy is young and “doesn’t need his personal life” out in public view.
“I don’t think it’s the public’s interest in having this hearing in open court,” Dalton added.
The boy, who the Quad-City Times has chosen not to identify because of his age, will remain in state custody for at least another week, Dalton ruled Monday.
He faces felony charges of attempted murder and carrying a firearm on North Scott Junior High School grounds. He allegedly brought a fully loaded Smith & Wesson into class, pulled it out and ordered his classmates to the floor, then pointed the gun at his teacher's face and pulled the trigger.
With its safety device still on, the gun did not fire, according to court documents. No one was physically harmed, and the teacher and another staff member were able to get the gun away from the boy.
Dalton's ruling came after a detention hearing to determine whether the boy should be released to his parents or stay behind bars. The judge decided the circumstances of the case merited detention in a state juvenile facility for the time being, a question the court is scheduled to revisit Sept. 17.
In a motion arguing for his release, the boy’s attorneys said all weapons have been removed from his home, the family is seeking mental health treatment and the boy is to be home-schooled by his stay-at-home mother following his expulsion from school. The defense attorneys also suggested the court could place the boy on GPS monitoring as the case moves forward.
State laws allow for juvenile court proceedings to be held behind closed doors. But the prosecuting attorney in Scott County has asked the court to try the boy as a youthful offender, which means the trial proceedings would happen in adult court if the judge approves. If convicted as a youthful offender, the boy would be supervised by the juvenile court system until his 18th birthday, then be sentenced in adult court.
Several questions surrounding the boy’s case remain unanswered. Authorities have not disclosed how the boy obtained the gun or what would have motivated him to try to kill his teacher.
Meanwhile, the teacher who was the apparent target has been praised by school district officials for the way she handled the situation. North Scott Superintendent Joe Stutting has credited the actions of her and other staff members with thwarting a would-be school shooting, saying they “made all the difference in the world.” Stutting has also said the school has safety training for teachers and students to prepare for active-shooter threats.
The event occurs amid heightened fear for the safety of schoolchildren following deadly shootings around the nation. Within the past year, mass-school shootings in Florida and Texas prompted state lawmakers around the country to introduce gun-control legislation, additional resources for armed police officers in schools and security-related building upgrades. As of April, the National Conference of State Legislatures had identified more than 200 bills or resolutions introduced in 39 states concerning school safety.
In Iowa, a law was passed this year to make active-shooter drills mandatory in all schools. It cleared the House and Senate with bipartisan support and was approved by Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds in April.