A loaded .357 Magnum handgun was confiscated Wednesday from a staff member's locker soon after instruction began at an elementary magnet school in Minneapolis, police said.

The gun was recovered at about 8:30 a.m. from inside the locked locker in the staff locker room at the 900-student Seward Montessori School at 2309 28th Av. S., said police Sgt. William Palmer.

The female staffer at the K-8 school has a permit to carry a weapon, "but you still can't have it in the school," Palmer said.

A criminal investigation has begun into what is a potential misdemeanor, Palmer added. He said the staffer's decision to bring the gun was connected to the Newtown, Conn., school killings last week, but he declined to say anything more specific about the motive.

The woman, whose identity was withheld, was not arrested or cited but was "immediately removed from the school and placed on administrative leave," School District spokesman Stan Alleyne said in a notice to students' families.

School Board Member Carla Bates said she believed that the employee was an education assistant.

The school remained on "code yellow" lockdown until dismissal, Alleyne added, meaning that instruction continued but students were kept in their classrooms for the day and all exterior and interior doors were to be locked.

Alleyne said someone in the school reported the gun about an hour after classes began.

"No staff members or students were harmed or threatened by this incident, [and] there is no evidence that the employee was a threat to our school community."

The spokesman added that "weapons of any kind are strictly prohibited on school property. . . . Staff members must sign off on this staff policy upon their employment."

The school has signs at all main entrances saying that guns are banned on the property, but the law "bans guns in school regardless of whether those signs are on display," said another district official, spokeswoman Emily Lowther. However, district policy creates limited exceptions for police or military use, color guards or staff training in weapons. A state law banning guns on school property creates similar exceptions, and also permits gun shows and the carrying of weapons by people who have a principal's witten permission

Palmer said he couldn't recall another instance of a school staff member having a gun in school. Educators do sometimes deal with students bringing weapons onto school property, he said.

Tensions have been high at schools across the country since the mass murder of children and adults Friday at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Administrators in Minnesota and nationwide have been reassuring families of their children's safety while at the same time reviewing security measures.

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