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After Lakewalk incident, Duluth schools warn families about use of pellet guns

Duluth police investigated after track athletes were struck by pellets while running along the lakeshore.

Duluth East High School
Families of Duluth East High School students were informed of this week of a pellet gun challenge the school district called "highly dangerous and unacceptable behavior."
File / Duluth News Tribune

DULUTH — A non-sanctioned game involving pellet guns and East High School students resulted in police involvement earlier this week, and caused the school district to write a letter to families, calling it "unacceptable behavior."

Duluth police responded Wednesday afternoon to the Lakewalk, where police say students running for track practice reported being struck with pellets fired from a gun.

An officer located the individual responsible for the incident and gave the person a verbal reprimand, leaving discipline up to the parents, the Duluth Police Department told the News Tribune on Friday. No charges were filed, and the school resource officer was informed.

That incident was later acted upon by the school district, using steps outlined in the student handbook, said district spokesperson Adelle Wellens, declining to say what happened to the student due to data privacy laws.

But Wellens described it as part of a bigger, ongoing event. She shared the contents of a letter sent to East parents.

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“We have been made aware that some young people in our area have been using pellet and gel pellet guns to attack each other as part of a game or challenge, similar to the Nerf wars that started years ago,” the letter said, referencing a game in which students shoot one another using toy guns and soft projectiles.

“This is highly dangerous and unacceptable behavior and students are prohibited from using these weapons at school, on school property, or at school events at any time,” the letter added.

Duluth East Principal Danette Seboe also sent a letter home to track students and parents, informing them of the Lakewalk incident and offering support. The letter asks students to reach out if they have further information about pellet gun game play.

The pellet guns, often referred to as airsoft guns, are heavier weapons that often replicate the look and feel of a regular firearm — save for an orange tip at the end of the barrel.

In the letter home to families, the school district reminded them that local police and schools frequently raise concerns about airsoft guns, and surrounding issues with non-sanctioned challenge games, including trespassing, distracted driving and assault. Two Lakeville (Minnesota) High School students were killed when they were involved in a vehicle crash playing a Nerf war in 2015.

The district asked that parents speak to their students about the dangers related to the behavior and risks associated with using the guns.

“Pellet and gel pellet guns are considered a ‘dangerous weapon’ under the student handbook,” the school district’s letter said. “Students caught possessing and/or using these weapons on school property, in a school zone, or off school grounds at any school-related activity, event, or function will be subject to suspension and/or expulsion.”

The district letter concluded by saying: "Students running or driving around with any type of pellet and gel pellet weapons can cause panic in our community."

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This story was updated at 9:50 a.m. March 26 to correct the spelling of Danette Seboe's last name. It was originally posted at 5:23 p.m. March 25. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Related Topics: DULUTH EAST HIGH SCHOOLDULUTH POLICE DEPARTMENTGUNS
Brady Slater is a former reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.
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