NEWBERRY -- Just before the tardy bell rang on Thursday morning, as most children were gossiping or grabbing books from their lockers, a 12-year-old Oak View Middle School student was busy showing off a gun he had brought to school.
The brown and black gun, about as long as a pen, could easily be mistaken for a real gun if not for the bright orange tip.
"It did look like a handgun," said Sgt. Keith Faulk, public information officer for the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.
At least two students who been shown the gun by the boy went to School Resource Deputy Casey Hamilton and told him that a student had a gun.
Hamilton took the suspected student out of his classroom and asked him if he had something in his backpack that he should not have.
The student said "yes" and showed him the gun, a type of gun called an "airsoft" gun that uses compressed air to shoot a pellet.
The boy was arrested on the charge of possession of a firearm on school grounds, a felony, and taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center.
The boy was not using the gun in a threatening way but rather was "showing off" the gun, Faulk said.
And even though the gun was not a real gun, the charge is the same as if it were, Faulk said.
"It's still considered a firearm because it shoots a projectile," Faulk said.
Police received conflicting information from the boy and student witnesses, Faulk said.
The boy said he brought the airsoft gun to school because he was going to go to a friend's house after school to play, said Jackie Johnson, pubic information specialist for the Alachua County School District.
But other witnesses told police that the boy showed only the back of the gun, keeping the orange-painted tip hidden in his backpack, and said the gun was real.
Even if the boy had not said the gun was real, he would have been arrested, Faulk said.
That's because of the county's "zero-tolerance" policy toward guns, Faulk said.
The situation was handled correctly, from the students telling their school resourse officer, to the arrest of the boy, Faulk said.
This is not the first time a fake gun has been brought to a school in the district this year, but "one time is too often," Faulk said.
In addition to the felony charge, the boy is suspended for 10 days and the school will send the School Board an automatic recommendation for expulsion -- the standard procedure that occurs when a student brings a gun to school, Johnson said.
But just because expulsion is recommended does not mean that it will necessarily occur, Johnson said. A hearing will be held before the School Board in which the evidence is weighed and the parents and others can say why the boy should not be expelled.