LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- More students at Jefferson County Public Schools have been caught with weapons on school grounds in the first months of the 2021-22 school year compared to recent years, but fewer guns have been recovered compared to the last year in which schools operated on traditional in-person learning schedules in that span.
District data obtained by WDRB News show JCPS students were referred for weapons violations 113 times between Aug. 11 and Oct. 8, the first 39 days of the 2021-22 school year. That’s 27% higher than the 89 behavior referrals for weapons violations through the first 39 days of the 2019-20 school year and 253% higher than the 32 weapons violations in the same period during the 2018-19 school year.
JCPS did not record any weapons violations through the first 39 days of the 2020-21 school year when students began their classes remotely as part of the district’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy. Other Kentucky school districts delayed reopening their classrooms during that year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, though JCPS did not begin its hybrid learning schedule for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year until March and April.
District data show students were caught with handguns on school grounds six times in the first 39 days of the 2021-22 school year, nearly half of the 11 handgun violations recorded at JCPS in the same period during 2019-20. Three handgun referrals were reported in the first 39 days of 2018-19, according to JCPS records.
The records obtained by WDRB News do not include recent incidents involving students carrying guns on school property, such as the loaded, stolen gun found in a Marion C. Moore School student’s backpack Tuesday.
“It’s difficult for us to draw too many conclusions from this data,” JCPS Communications Manager Mark Hebert said in a statement. “While we have seen fewer handguns in school during the same time period from two years ago, any time a student brings any kind of weapon into school is a concern to us. This is a community issue that will take all of us to work toward solutions.”
Louisville Metro Police Chief Erika Shields is among those calling for JCPS to hire school resource officers, which have not been in schools at Kentucky’s largest district since the 2018-19 school year, in hopes of combating the recent uptick in violent crimes committed in Jefferson County.
Shields initially called for the Jefferson County Board of Education to hire school resource officers after a drive-by shooting at a bus stop near the intersection of Dr. W.J. Hodge and Chestnut streets that killed 16-year-old Eastern High School student Tyree Smith and injured two other JCPS students on Sept. 22.
“There are these gangs, the guns are coming into school, and so how are we going to get our arms around this?” Shields said in a recent interview with WDRB News. “You can't keep taking guns off of kids and think this is going to end well.”
The six gun incidents in the first months of this school year happened at Iroquois High School, Seneca High School, Lassiter Middle School and Stuart Academy, according to JCPS behavior referrals obtained by WDRB News. Those referrals show:
- An Iroquois High student was brought to the assistant principal’s office on Aug. 11, the first day of school, after they were suspected of smoking marijuana. The student said they had smoked marijuana before school and initially declined a search of their backpack because they did not want to go to jail. JCPS security found an unloaded 9 mm gun in the student’s backpack, and the student said they had stolen the gun from their father. The student was suspended and recommended for alternative placement. The assistant principal, Matt Kingsley, was suspended for five days because he did not alert LMPD about the gun and released the student and weapon to the father.
- An Iroquois High student was found with a gun after the school’s homecoming football game on Sept. 24. LMPD responded to the school after receiving a call that nine students were trying to break into the school with bolt cutters and recovered a 9 mm gun from the student during a search. LMPD cited the student, who was suspended and later withdrew from the school.
- A loaded handgun and a switchblade knife were recovered from a Lassiter Middle student on Sept. 28 after another student notified the school’s librarian and assistant principal that they had seen the firearm. Other students indicated they had also been shown the weapon. The student was suspended and recommended for alternative placement.
- An Iroquois High student was suspended after hiding a black gun in another student’s backpack after a fight Oct. 4. Security observed via video surveillance the student apparently cocking a gun and placing it in their pants in the school’s auditorium and later taking the item from their pants and placing it in another student’s backpack. The other student said the student returned the backpack on a bus “and took the gun out and was waving it around on the bus and talking about having a gun,” the referral says. Other students, including the one with the backpack, indicated the item was a black gun. No weapons were recovered in a search the following day, but the student was suspended pending a board hearing.
- A gun was found on a Seneca High student Oct. 6 after they were arrested by LMPD for an incident unrelated to the school. The student was suspended and recommended for alternative placement but later withdrew from Seneca High.
- A Stuart Academy student was caught showing a pistol inside their backpack in a classroom on Oct. 7. They were charged with unlawful possession of a firearm on school property, suspended and recommended for alternative placement.
Most weapons violations in the first months of the 2021-22 school year at JCPS involve knives and stun guns, according to district data.
JCPS students faced disciplinary referrals for bringing knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches on school property 29 times in the first 39 days of the 2021-22 school year, up 61 percent from the 18 referrals for such knives in 2019-20 and up 314 percent from the seven referrals for such knives in 2018-19, district records show.
District students were referred for bringing stun guns to schools 20 times in the first 39 days of the school year, a tenfold increase from the two referrals for stun guns recorded in the same period in 2019-20. JCPS recorded no such referrals for the first months of the 2018-19 school year.
JCPS reported the following weapon referral data in response to an open records request from WDRB News:
|Knife, blade length 2.5 inches or more||7||18||29|
|Knife, blade length less than 2.5 inches||10||20||13|
|Substance used as a weapon||0||1||1|
|TOTAL WEAPON REFERRALS||32||89||113|
Copyright 2021 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.