CBS12 Investigates: Uptick in guns brought to Florida schools
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (CBS12) —
As thousands of South Florida students prepare to go back to school and get their first assignments, CBS12 Investigates started studying weeks ago, reviewing reports and data on school safety and security.
We found guns, knives and various weapons passing through the halls of our schools.
Schools report all weapons found to the Florida Department of Education.
"I worry about it every time I drop the kids off at school," said parent Sienna Purse.
It's an alarming trend potentially putting teachers and students in the cross hairs of violence.
“It is frightening that someone can go in there and cause havoc, and you can't do anything about it," added Purse.
According to the latest data, schools in our five county area reported at least 12 gun incidents on campuses.
"If students don't feel safe they are not going to want to learn," said Retired Teacher Shari Wagner.
St. Lucie County Schools reported three guns on campus.
That's a drop of more than half from the previous year.
They say they're working with area law enforcement to ensure the safety of their students.
In Palm Beach County, Superintendent Robert Avossa wants to put an end to weapons on campus.
Not with just a zero tolerance policy, but by giving students the tools to make better decisions.
"We are working social emotional learning make decisions using voice and not hands,” said Dr. Avossa, “Making decisions to de-escalate crisis they may be face."
The latest data shows that is not deterring some students from coming armed to school.
CBS12 Investigates sifted through the data and found reports of 216 weapons at schools in our five county area.
Palm Beach Schools reported the most with 173 weapons, but they have a much larger student population.
Of those weapons, five were guns up from only one reported the previous year.
"The increase I did see were the adults who brought guns on campus," said Chief Lawrence Leon.
Chief Leon oversees the school district's police department.
"One may have been a parent; one may have been a staff," added Chief Leon.
Chief Leon said they recovered the guns because they built a culture of trust with the students.
"We get them because other kids have built relationships with the officers and told the officers, ‘Hey there is a gun on that location or someone has it," said Chief Leon.
Chief Leon said when it comes to safety, building relationships is just as important as the lessons in the classrooms.
"We are constantly working on relationships with kids,” added Chief Leon.
“It is evident in what we do and how we help kids and make sure they are being successful."
Chief Leon said he is starting the year with six vacancies on the force mostly due to retirements.
He plans to swear in two new officers at the beginning of the school year.