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Teacher arrested after gun found in classroom

Times Staff Writers

A Santa Ana elementary school teacher was arrested after students found a handgun and ammunition in the drawer of a supply cabinet of her classroom, officials said Thursday.

Jayne DeArmond, 51, a third-grade teacher at Diamond Elementary School, was arrested on charges of felony possession of a firearm on a campus and misdemeanor child endangerment after students discovered the unloaded handgun and ammunition about 11:15 a.m. Wednesday, said Angela Burrell, a Santa Ana Unified School District spokeswoman.

Students were moved to another classroom after the gun and ammunition were found. Principal Deanna Pelasky told parents what had happened when they picked up their children at the end of the day, Burrell said.

The news came as a shock to many parents dropping off their students and volunteering at the school Thursday morning.

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“It’s dangerous not only for the school, but for the whole community here,” said Antonio Mendoza, whose 6-year-old son, Jose, attends Diamond.

“This is a real tranquil area,” said Angelica Vasquez, who has lived in the neighborhood 25 years.

“We haven’t had any gang problems, so why would she be worried so much that she would bring a gun into a classroom? Was it for her own protection?”

Counseling has been made available to students and staff, Burrell said.

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Authorities were trying to determine why the gun, which they believed belonged to DeArmond, was in the classroom.

Students had access to the cabinet where the gun was kept, Burrell said.

The students who found the gun told an instructional aide, who told Pelasky. She notified school police, who confiscated the weapon within minutes, Burrell said.

“The kids actually came forward and told an adult,” said Jim Miyashiro, the school district’s police chief. “They did the right thing.”

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After conducting interviews, police took DeArmond into custody. Authorities said they also searched DeArmond’s car.

DeArmond was released late Wednesday on her own promise to appear in court. She could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Burrell said DeArmond was no longer working on campus, but she would not discuss the terms of her leave.

School police will be conducting an initial internal investigation of the incident, which will be followed by an administrative investigation into how the gun arrived on campus.

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In a letter sent to homes Thursday afternoon, Pelasky reassured parents that “our school is a safe haven for our students.”

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tony.barboza@latimes.com

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david.reyes@latimes.com


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