SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - A Utah elementary school teacher with a state permit to carry a concealed firearm in class shot herself in the leg when the handgun went off, apparently by accident, while she was in a faculty restroom on Thursday, school district officials said.
The shooting at the Westbrook Elementary School in Taylorsville, a Salt Lake City suburb, occurred shortly before classes began in the morning, while most students were still outside the building, said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley.
No one was injured but the sixth-grade teacher, Michelle Ferguson-Montgomery, who was alone when she suffered a single bullet wound to her leg, school officials said. She was later listed in good condition at a nearby hospital.
Horsley said he had no information on how the teacher had the gun holstered or what caused it to discharge. But a preliminary investigation by school district police found the shooting appeared to be accidental and not the result of negligence, he said.
Utah state law allows private citizens, including teachers, to carry concealed firearms on the job with a special permit requiring prior gun-safety training and a background check.
In keeping with the law’s privacy provisions, the school had not been aware the teacher was a permit holder, Horsley said.
“The law’s specific. We’re not allowed to ask, and she’s not required to tell us,” he said. “The intent of a concealed-carry permit is to have the strategic advantage of people not knowing that you’re carrying, so that you can defend yourself.”
Teachers who do bring a concealed weapon to work must keep it on their person at all times, and are barred from leaving it in a drawer or cabinet, even if under lock and key, he said.
Horsley said the incident marks the first time since the law’s passage about a decade ago that anyone with a concealed-carry permit has had their gun go off by mistake in a school.
“We have parents who are concerned about a teacher bringing a weapon into the school, and we have referred those parents to the legislature, as we only have the ability to comply with the law,” he said.
In a letter posted online, Westbrook principal Karen Chatterton urged parents to “have a conversation with your child about what they know” of the incident and to “reassure them that school is the safest place they can be.”
Horsley said hundreds of public school faculty in Utah attended free gun-safety classes for teachers organized by concealed-carry advocates following the December 2012 massacre of 20 school children by a gunman in Newtown, Connecticut.
Additional reporting and writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler