It happened around 7:30 a.m. Monday at the high school, located in the 5500 block of Langdon Street.
Officials say the gun was found in a 15-year-old student's backpack as it went through metal detectors at the entrance of the school Monday morning.
The .40 caliber Smith and Wesson handgun, fully loaded, set off an alarm when the backpack went through a metal detector, police said.
Security personnel scanned the pack again and found the gun.
The 9th grade student was immediately taken into custody, said Philadelphia Police Capt. Sekou Kinebrew.
The student admitted to police that he had stolen the gun from a car near his home sometime during the past week, Kinebrew said.
He has no disciplinary problems and no criminal record.
Police were working to determine if a rumor that the student had been beaten up and brought the weapon to school for protection is accurate.
The boy and his mother were being interviewed by police Monday afternoon.
After the weapon was found, the school was immediately put on lockdown.
A student who did not want to be identified told Action News they were kept in the auditorium.
Word quickly spread of what was going on.
"The staff didn't tell us it was a gun, but you heard it from kids," the student said.
The lockdown was lifted at 8:22 a.m.
Lillian Izzard, the Assistant Principal of Fels High School, released a letter to parents, saying, in part, "I want to assure you that we take the health and safety of our students very seriously and that we have taken the necessary steps in response to this incident. If you or your child has any concerns regarding this incident, I encourage you to please contact my office directly. Please note that the Philadelphia Police and School District Police will conduct a full investigation regarding this incident."
There were no injuries to students or staff.
"The threat was neutralized very quickly, but there was an external search and internal review to make sure everything was all safe before and the Philadelphia police are the ones who lifted the lockdown," said school district spokesman Kevin Geary.
Below is the letter in full sent from Lillian Izzard, the Assistant Principal of Fels High School, to parents:
"This letter is to inform you of a serious incident that occurred at Fels High School this morning. Today, a student was found in possession of a loaded firearm when his school bag went through the entry scan at the building entrance. The School Police took immediate possession of the school bag and immediately contacted the Philadelphia Police Department.
At that point the school went into lockdown until we could make sure there was no additional threats to the school. No threat was discovered and the lockdown was lifted at 8:22 a.m. No students or staff were harmed and the student in question is in custody with the Philadelphia Police Department.
I want to assure you that we take the health and safety of our students very seriously and that we have taken the necessary steps in response to this incident. If you or your child has any concerns regarding this incident, I encourage you to please contact my office directly. Please note that the Philadelphia Police and School District Police will conduct a full investigation regarding this incident.
This incident underlines the need for all of us, as a school community, to work together to ensure the safety of our school and our neighborhood. Please take the time to speak to your children about the serious consequences of bringing any type of weapon to school. It is important that children know that if they need help or have a concern regarding their own personal safety to please contact a school staff member or a police officer immediately.
If you have additional questions or concerns please feel free to contact my office at (215) 400-7100.
Sincerely, Lillian Izzard"
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