WDRB Investigates | Drug and gun cases in JCPS schools
WDRB investigates which schools have the highest numbers and what was found.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As violent crime continues to rise in Louisville, guns and drugs are being confiscated in the city and from local schools, too.
JCPS records show there were eight handgun incidents in schools five years ago. It went up to 13 for the last school year and there have been four so far this school year.
The district says it only reports behavior incidents, so it doesn't necessarily mean four handguns were found. For example, on Aug. 19, a Western High School student told school officials he brought an unloaded handgun to school, but left it in his car.
JCPS says the School Resource Officer (SRO) was called immediately and obtained permission to search the vehicle, at which time the weapon was found. The student was disciplined according to the "Code of Conduct." JCPS says the student was also arrested.
Then on Aug. 30, a Noe Middle School student was arrested for having two guns in a backpack -- one was loaded. Katy Zeitz, the JCPS Achievement Area Superintendent says, "We need to make sure, especially with our younger kids, that we really think about access and what they have access to."
Then last week, JCPS says two students were arrested at Iroquois High School for bringing a loaded 9mm handgun to school. The district says one student had the gun in his car; the other stole it and brought the weapon into school.
"In most of our situations that involve weapons, honestly it's usually students who have this in their possession," Zeitz said. "They're not wielding them. They're not pointing them at somebody." She goes on to say, "Students are telling on each other or they are even saying they brought this because they are scared about something that happened on the way to school or the way home."
WDRB requested records from JCPS not only on guns, but drugs found in all of its schools -- from marijuana, to heroin, crack and prescription drugs. Since the 2011-12 school year, there were 776 incidents. That number dropped to 726 the next year, then jumped to 935 for the last school year. There were 71 incidents so far this school year.
"Our community is represented in some of the things that our schools experience," Zeitz said. Obviously, we have heightened crime and heightened violence in our community. I don't think people really think about how that affects our students."
Zeitz says students face a lot of challenges outside of school and those challenges are brought into school settings.
The school with the highest number of drug and gun incidents is Seneca High School. Fifty-seven of those incidents involve marijuana possession and use. Seneca had 77 total incidents involving drugs and guns for the 2015-2016 school year. The high school with the second highest number that year is Fern Creek at 71, with 41 marijuana use and possession cases.
"I think a lot of that has to do with situations and trends that are happening in those communities outside of school that are bleeding into school," Zeitz said.
Zeitz says students are often carrying small amounts of drugs with them, with mostly marijuana and then prescription drugs found at school. Over the past five years, there was one heroin incident and three cases of crack cocaine. Educators say when kids come to school high or with drugs, they aren't using them for recreation.
"They are experiencing things in their lives that are creating anxiety and they are turning to these types of things to try and feel better or maybe try and escape, so what we've tried to do is add more services," Zeitz said.
Schools throughout the district are seeing these drug issues from lower performing schools to the highest performing high school: Manual. It had 11 incidents during the 2015-2016 school year, including nine cases of marijuana possession and use,
Even elementary schools are seeing drug abuse issues. JCPS says in the last two school years, Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School had three incidents of marijuana use and possession. Kennedy Montessori Elementary School had one gun and one marijuana case during the last school year. Other elementary schools are seeing similar numbers.
"I think sometimes the elementary school situation tends to be more a look alike weapon situation, "Zeitz said.
Dr. Allan Josephson with the U of L Physicians group says children are getting into drugs at a younger age,
"It's gone down and down over the years in the terms of the age of the user of drugs, but certainly it's surprising and troubling that younger children are using," Josephson said.
Josephson says their office at the Bingham Clinic sees 14,000 visits a year from kids, and about 30 percent are related to drugs. He says parents should look for certain warning signs: "Falling grades, not spending as much time with friends as they used to, associating with different kinds of friends, those would be the big things. "
The middle school with the highest number of drugs and weapons confiscated for the last school year is Crosby with 32 incidents reported. The school found one weapon, and had 15 cases of marijuana possession, use and distribution and 15 similar prescription drug cases.
In the past couple years, Zeitz says JCPS has partnered with organizations for a substance abuse program to help students. Our Lady of Peace has an intensive outpatient program for substance abuse at Seneca High School and Southern High School. The district says Seven Counties has started a psychiatric program at Olmsted Academy North, while the Brook Hospital started a psychiatric program at Iroquois High School. JCPS says all the programs are three days a week with after school hours.
Schools like Central High School have seen a drop in the number of marijuana incidents. It had one case five years ago, then jumped up to 14 for a couple of years. There were two marijuana incidents reported in the 2015-2016 school year.
"We always want to make sure our kids and our schools are safe, we spend a lot of time analyzing our own data," Zeitz said.
There are other cases that aren't counted in JCPS numbers, such as when a gun was found on the Norton Elementary School playground. JCPS Spokeswoman Jennifer Brislin says, "That was the one that was found at night on the playground. It wasn't taken off a student. LMPD determined that the gun had likely been dropped there just prior to discovery, and had not been there earlier in the day when children were playing at recess."
"Our data tracks behavior incidences, so if it doesn't involve a student incident, it's not included in our data," Brislin said.
Students found with guns and drugs are disciplined according to the JCPS "Code of Conduct" handbook.
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