Harns Marsh Middle School in Buckingham. Credit: WINK News.

Assistant principal demoted after apprehending gun from student, thousands petition on her behalf

A student was found with a loaded gun at Harns Marsh Middle School in Buckingham at the end of 2019, and the assistant principal who first responded to the incident received a demotion following her actions.

Community members are now speaking out on her behalf. Thousands of people signed a petition on behalf of Vivian Gutierrez recently after she was demoted from her position within the School District of Lee County.

Gutierrez was the assistant principal at Harns Marsh Middle when a student brought a loaded gun to campus in December 2019. She was the one to safely separate the student from the weapon.

Gutierrez’s daughter Haylie started a petition to help her mom.

“She loves her job,” said Haylie Gutierrez.

The district said it suspended Vivian and then demoted her to a teaching position because of her handling of the gun threat.

“Her actions in my opinion and the opinion of several thousand people according to the petition is that she reacted reasonably and effectively,” Haylie said. “No one was hurt.”

But the district said Vivian did not follow proper procedure.

Documents from the school district say that Vivian responded to reports of a student with a gun within minutes, escorting the student out of class herself. She then performed a search in the main office, all without the knowledge of the principal or school resource officer.

That’s when Vivian had the student pull the gun from his backpack. Her attorney said, before this moment, Vivian never knew the student had a lethal weapon. He said she was told it was a BB gun.

“The fact of the matter is it was a report of a non-lethal weapon,” said Benajamin Yormack, a labor and employment attorney. “She went. She took custody of the student, took custody of what she thought was a non-lethal weapon until it turned out it was an actual gun when it came out of the bag.”

“What the district is doing here is trying to cover up,” Yormack said. “It did not have any policies that covered this.”

But the district said Vivian violated four of the school board’s policies related to her lack of initial reporting to the Harns Marsh principal and other professional standards.

Haylie said her mother’s quick actions may have saved lives. She said a group will be attending the next school board meeting to voice their concerns over Vivian’s demotion.

The district said safety and security is its top priority, and it must take action when that priority is compromised.

Haylie said the outcome of her mother’s actions should be what matters most.

“That could have been a horrific incident,” Haylie said. “And, because of her actions, it was not.”

School District of Lee County Statement

“In December 2019, a student at Harns Marsh Middle School brought a gun to school. An extensive investigation found that the assistant principal did not follow proper procedure from the time she was notified a weapon was in the school to the time the weapon was secured. Even so, Harns Marsh employees along with the sheriff’s office of Lee County worked together to successfully deescalate a situation that could have ended in a much different way. The safety and security of our students, staff and visitors is of highest priority and it is incumbent upon us to take action when that priority is compromised.”

Reporter:Breana Ross
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
Do you see a typo or an error? Let us know.