Letter to parents: 2 employees placed on leave after gun discharged at St. Josaphat Parish School
MILWAUKEE — A letter issued to parents of students at St. Josaphat Parish School, obtained by FOX6 News on Tuesday, April 30, revealed two employees were placed on leave, and one of those two employees resigned after a gun was discharged inside the school on April 5. Administrators previously said the employee whose weapon discharged was “immediately terminated.” A 10-year-old student was struck when the weapon went off. Fortunately, police said the bullet did not penetrate the 10-year-old student’s skin, but it did leave a bruise.
The letter to families read as follows:
“Dear St. Josaphat Catholic School families,
I wanted to let you know what the Parish is doing to ensure the continued safety and well-being of its students.
Our teachers met on Monday morning to discuss the need to watch over the students to ensure that they are doing well. If there is any concern about your child, please contact your child’s teacher or the principal so that we can connect you/your child to appropriate resources, and do whatever we can to assist your child.
On Tuesday afternoon, we will be holding refresher training on mandatory child safety reporting requirements and school emergency plans and protocol. We will also plan and schedule a parent meeting as soon as possible where I can talk with you directly.
Two employees were placed on leave last week. On Monday morning, one resigned. As we obtain additional information, further disciplinary action may be taken.
I am sorry for the worry that this incident has caused you and your family. I am doing my best to ensure that St. Josaphat continues to be a safe and loving learning environment for your children. May God continue to guide us, protect us, and keep us in His loving arms.
St. Josaphat Parish School”
A spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Police Department said Wednesday, May 1 charges were pending against three people.
FOX6 News on Monday, April 29 confirmed the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction is involved in the investigation into this incident. A DPI spokesperson said no specific details were able to be released as of Monday, amid the ongoing investigation.
Father Lawrence Zurek in a statement to St. Josaphat Parish School families on April 24 said the 59-year-old employee was “immediately terminated” after he was informed that a weapon was “accidentally discharged” at the school on April 5.
The statement from Father Zurek stated he wasn’t made aware of the incident until April 12. Police were notified on April 17.
As of April 24, Father Zurek’s statement said the police report had not been completed.
Below is the statement April 24 from Father Zurek — issued to parishioners and parents:
“Ever since I was appointed Administrator of the Basilica last October, I have done my best to keep you abreast of all that is happening in the parish, especially through my weekly bulletin articles. Last weekend at all the Triduum services we made a public announcement of an incident that happened at Saint Josaphat School. Given that the investigation was still ongoing, there was only so much I was at liberty to say.”
“As I write this, it is Wednesday, April 24th. Earlier today I again spoke with a member of the Milwaukee Police Department and he informed me that the police report is not completed yet. He said it will take additional time before it is available, but that the department is aware we have requested a copy at the earliest possible chance. When the police report is completed I will be able to share more information with you. However, this much I can share with you. On Friday morning, April 12, I was informed by an employee of the school that a weapon was accidentally discharged at the school on April 5th. I tried to find out more information, contacted the Milwaukee police, and the employee who brought the gun to school was immediately terminated by me. The Police Department commenced an investigation and detectives spent several days at the school. I was interviewed on Holy Thursday, April 18. The same day, School families were notified of what happened. Once we have additional information, other disciplinary and corrective action may have to be taken. In the meantime, I would just caution everyone from jumping to conclusions before we have all the facts. I will always do my utmost to ensure the safety of all our children. It isn’t, and has never been a policy, to allow weapons on school premises. Why this employee brought a gun to school that day is beyond me. The person had been a long-time employee and from all indications was very dedicated to the school. I ask for and count on your prayers for all involved in this incident.”
Below is the statement from Alderman Perez:
“It is very fortunate that the accidental weapon discharge at the St. Josaphat School on April 5 resulted only in a minor injury to one of the students in the school’s care. It could have been far worse.”
“I cannot speak to whatever it is that would cause an employee of an elementary school to bring a handgun to work. I cannot imagine what it is that would cause him to do something that would cause the gun to discharge. I can, however, express my strong disapproval for the very poor decision of the school’s principal to conceal the incident from authorities for as long as she did. I have contacted St. Josaphat’s pastor directly to ask what procedures were in place for incidents of this kind; why these procedures, if they existed, were not followed; and what is being done to assure students, parents, and the community that something like this does not happen again.”
“I look forward to his responses. In the meanwhile, I am informed that the employee in question has been discharged, arrested, and is currently having his case reviewed by the office of the District Attorney. I will continue to watch this situation closely to make certain that all those responsible are held appropriately accountable.”
“Also, the City, through the Milwaukee Health Department’s office of Violence Prevention, has made a significant commitment to providing trauma-informed care to individuals who have been the victims of or witnesses to violence of this type. I would urge any individuals in need of these services as the result of this or any other incident to call the trauma response hotline at (414)-257-7621.”
Students and faculty were on a holiday break on Monday, April 22, but FOX6 News did receive the below statement from a priest who is affiliated with the school:
“St. Josaphat Parish learned that a school employee recently brought a weapon onto school property and the weapon was accidentally discharged. An internal investigation was commenced, and the employee has been terminated.”
“St. Josaphat has notified school families about the incident. The Parish continues to make the safety of its students and school a top priority.”
“St. Josaphat has also notified the Milwaukee Police Department about the incident. The Department is investigating and the Parish is fully cooperating with the investigation.”