An Alta High School senior has been expelled from school for a year and is in police custody for bringing an assault rifle onto school property Thursday - one day after the start of the 1998-99 academic year.

The weapon - an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle, which fires .223 caliber bullets, was found in a hard gun case, lying in the back of the boy's sport-utility vehicle, which was in the parking lot of the school, 11055 S. 1000 East, Sandy Police Sgt. Kevin Thacker said.Jordan School District spokeswoman Melinda Rock said a student reportedly told a hall monitor about the weapon. The monitor notified an administrator, who turned over the matter to a Sandy police resource officer.

"The weapon never entered the school. The right people were notified and it was handled completely appropriately," Rock said.

School resource officer Justin Chapman questioned the boy, 17, but said that at no time did he feel the boy intended to use the gun at the school.

It was unclear if the boy had shown the weapon to other students, talked about having it or if someone had just seen it lying in the vehicle, Chapman said.

The boy, who is new to Alta, readily admitted to having the weapon and said it was a family gun, Chapman said. The boy appeared to be familiar with the weapon and has knowledge of gun safety, Chapman said.

The boy has been referred to the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center. A Juvenile Court hearing was scheduled for Friday, Chapman said.

"He didn't really offer an explanation of why he had it," Thacker said. "But the actions were totally inappropriate."

The boy has no juvenile criminal record and has had no problems in school, according to Chapman.

Under the federal Safe Schools Act, any student who brings a gun - real or fake - onto school property is expelled from school.

Expulsions may be appealed to the school district superintendent.

There is heightened awareness about guns in schools after the 1997-98 school year during which communities in Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Oregon were scarred by fatal school shootings.

In Utah, a Syracuse Junior High student held classmates at gun-point in the school cafeteria last April. Police arrested a 14-year-old boy, who was later charged in juvenile court. No one was injured.

In the 1996-97 school year, Jordan District reported four weapons incidents, three in high school and one at a junior high, according to Utah State Office of Education records.