Teacher accused of bringing loaded gun to Pinellas elementary school

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A Pinellas County teacher faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly bringing a loaded gun and other weapons with her to school.

Betty Soto, bonded out of jail Monday after she allegedly had a loaded gun inside a backpack in a classroom while children were present.

Monday, officers with Pinellas schools said they found the fourth-grade Starkey Elementary School teacher with three weapons: A six-inch karambit fighting knife in her pants pocket, a two-inch finger push knife hidden in a backpack strap, and a 9mm handgun loaded with seven bullets.

Officers wrote in an arrest affidavit the gun was exposed when she left the backpack in her classroom, which had students inside. School district officials say the gun was never out of the bag around students.

Starkey principal Audrey Chaffin noticed Soto was acting weird Monday and became suspicious when Soto had her bag with her during a fire drill. She has a concealed carry permit but she is not permitted to have the gun on school property. 

When asked Monday night why she had the guns at school, Soto told FOX 13's Evan Axelbank: "Talk to DeSantis."

May 29 is the last day of school in Pinellas County and, until then, Soto will not have any interaction with students. Her fate within the school district will be determined after the court process is done.

Neither school officials nor law enforcement could say if Soto gave any reason for having the weapons. The district says her personnel file shows a history of several attendance and performance issues, though they did not provide details. Soto has been with the district for three years.