A MOTHER has been arrested in the US after her seven-year-old son went to school with a handgun and live ammunition in his backpack, potentially because he was afraid of bullies.
The school in Far Rockaway, Queens, New York, was placed on lockdown after the weapon, a .22 calibre handgun, and up to 20 rounds of ammunition were discovered. Students were told to turn off the classroom lights and hide behind the teacher's desk until the weapon was secured.
The boy's mother, Deborah Farley, 53, was later arrested and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, endangering the welfare of a child and other weapons-related crimes.
It is not clear whether the boy knew that the weapon was in his bag when he set off for Wave Preparatory Elementary School on Thursday morning.
WABC News in New York reported that Ms Farley told detectives during questioning that she put the weapon in her son's bag and forgot about it.
But the boy's father told the New York Daily News that his son had likely taken the weapon to school to fend off bullies.
Walter Orozo, 55, said: "He was afraid for his life. He was afraid to go to school. The kids were picking and picking on him, but the school wouldn't do anything to protect him.
"My wife, she complained to the school but the school wouldn't protect him. The school did nothing."
Ms Farley is said to have realised that the weapon was in her son's bag shortly after dropping him off. She went to the school and pulled her son out of class, telling teachers that he had a dentist appointment.
But after speaking to her child she learned that he had given another weapon from his backpack, a flare gun, to his friend. She then alerted the school who called police and put the building on lockdown.
Police are said to have found further ammunition at the family home.
The incident, coming just weeks after the massacre at Sandy Hook elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, prompted fear at the school.
When parents arrived to pick up their children they were met by more than a dozen police officers and handed a notice which read: "Due to an incident today there was need to secure all students in their classrooms.
"This procedure is called a lockdown. Our school-based support team is prepared to assist you with any emotional needs as a result of today's lockdown."
Lawrence Clark, 49, said he was unhappy at the lack of information from the school. He told the New York Times: "I live 30 seconds from the school, and I just found out about this... from my brother-in-law's Facebook page. And he lives in Utica.
"This school sends out texts and e-mails about all this stupid stuff, like parent-teacher conferences. But I didn't find out about this until just now?"
His eight-year-old daughter Shakyla Howard said: "They made us turn off the lights and hide behind the teacher's desk. I almost cried. I was afraid we were going to get shot."
Another mother, Jessica Cox , 25, told the Daily News: "I asked one of the cops what happened, and he just said 'Nothing to be worried about'.
"Someone brought a gun - that's something to worry about."
Mark Hughes Telegraph.co.uk