Teacher's Gun Discharges, Plea Deal Reached To Avoid Jail Time

An update to a story involving a Utah teacher whose gun discharged in an elementary school bathroom stall says a plea deal has been reached. Wednesday, Michelle Montgomery consented to paying a fine associated with the illegal firing of a weapon. Additionally, in lieu of a jail sentence, the school teacher agreed to take a class in firearm safety.

Montgomery, 39, present with her attorney, Douglas Hoyt, entered a no contest plea for the accidental discharge of her personal gun on September 11. A judge ordered her to pay $705, of which $200 has already been remitted. As part of the plea deal on the misdemeanor weapons charge, her record will be expunged if she does not commit any new offenses over the next 12 months, according to a Salt Lake Tribune news report.

Utah investigators say the teacher originally told them her gun discharged because it fell out of her holster, but forensics and ballistics reports suggested a different scenario, leading Montgomery to recant her story. She later said the weapon went off accidentally in the school bathroom stall as she was placing it atop a toilet paper dispenser.

Court documents say the gun's blast pattern indicated the shot came from a right to left direction above the toilet as if the teacher faced the stall door. Montgomery suffered minor injuries to her leg, likely from shrapnel, but suffered no lasting effects. After the shooting incident the sixth-grade teacher resigned from her position at Westbrook Elementary School in Taylorsville, where she taught for 14 years.

City prosecutor Tracey Cowdell weighed in on the teacher's incident and gun plea deal. Officials disciplined the teacher over an "unspecified" school policy violation. However, before she offered her resignation, Montgomery was cleared to return in a teaching capacity at the school.

"It is also serious. There's a lot of debate about guns and where they are appropriate. But they can't be going off at school -- we can all agree on that."
Although teachers are allowed to carry concealed guns if they are legally registered, the school district does not require them to make declarations. What's more, administrators are not allowed to ask as part of Utah's law on firearms. However, there is one requirement that likely led to the charges: teachers who carry guns must keep them on their person and concealed at all times.

It's unclear why the teacher had the weapon in the elementary school but, as some suggest, in light of the recent string of school shootings over the past two years, it's not odd that instructors are thinking about their own safety and of the children they teach.

[Image: Theo Romeo UCD Advocate via Beretta USA]