GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A first-year elementary teacher in nearby Chiefland left a pistol in the center console of her car that was discovered by fourth graders she had asked to retrieve medication, sheriff’s deputies said.
The teacher, Paige Ehlers, 27, of Gainesville was arrested Monday by the school’s resource officer and has been placed on administrative leave from her teaching job. She was arrested on two preliminary, felony charges of child endangerment, but a court threw out a charge of possession of a firearm on school grounds, court records said.
The incident occurred at Chiefland Elementary. Ehlers, who was released without being required to post any bond, did not immediately return phone messages. A condition of her release was that she not possess any firearms.
The Levy County Sheriff’s Office said Ehlers told a deputy she had forgotten the gun was in the vehicle. She had purchased it legally two years ago, and put it in the center console months ago, she said.
Ehlers, 27, sent the students to her Subaru to get her over-the-counter iron pills after she had problems with her vision during class. The students, who are 10 and 9 years old, reached into the center console to find the medicine when they saw and held the gun, the sheriff’s office said. Both students told deputies they were scared when they saw the gun, according to the arrest report.
When the students came back, they told other students in the class, and Ehlers notified the school administration about the incident, according to court records.
“While it is extremely disheartening to ever arrest a teacher, this type of violation that endangers the safety of our students cannot be tolerated,” Sheriff Bobby McCallum said in the press release.
It is legal in Florida for a person to carry a firearm in their vehicle, but school districts can have rules against it. The School Board of Levy County said on Facebook that Ehlers having the loaded handgun is a violation of school policy, but Levy County Judge Mitchell Bishop determined there was no probable cause that Ehlers violated the law against having a gun illegally on school property, court records said.
The board wrote in a post that it values the safety and well-being of the students and faculty.
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