Investigation: Amount of Weapons Found in Schools

Posted at: 04/29/2013 8:08 AM
Updated at: 04/29/2013 8:19 AM

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- Since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, it's no surprise that school safety has been on the minds of districts and parents across the country. We wanted to know how safe are schools in our area?

For several weeks we collected data from eight school districts in our area. We asked administrators what kinds of weapons are kids bringing to school? How many? And is this a growing problem in the area?

What we learned is it could be a lot worse.

"I'd like to look at the numbers and think we don't have any of those," said Michael Munoz, superintendent of Rochester Public Schools.

Wouldn't we all. But when there's nearly 17,000 students just in the Rochester Public School district, a kid is bound to bring in something he or she shouldn't.

Within the past three years, Rochester, has seen consistent number of weapons in its elementary, middle and high schools. 35 total in the 2010-2011 school year, 38 in the 2011-2012 school year and 22 so far this school year.

In Austin 16 weapons in 2010-2011 year, 25 in the 2011-2012 year and 11 so far this school year.

In Albert Lea similar numbers, with the most at 11 weapons confiscated last year.

When we think of the word "weapon", many of us automatically think of a gun or a knife. However, school administrators think of the word in a much broader sense. Their definition includes things like toy guns, laser pointers, and even flammable liquid like lighter fluid.

"It's not always what society thinks is a weapons. It's just whatever is used as a weapon," said Mark Walski, police liaison officer for Austin Public Schools.

We found the most common weapon brought to school in our area is a pocketknife.

"A lot of times you have a kid who lives on a farm and they forget they have a pocketknife in their pocket," said Steve Sallee, superintendent of Southland Public Schools.

"The majority of incidents are accidental," said David Krenz, superintendent of Austin Public Schools.

Krenz says that may be a reason why most of the weapons found in Austin's district are at the elementary level. Other administrators we talked to have the same issue. Kids simply forget they have a weapon with them.

"A lot of times students forget they have it in their backpack," said Munoz.

There are definitely exceptions. Last month a student at Albert Lea High School pulled out a knife because police say he was annoyed at another student. No one was hurt.

In 2011, a Mayo High School student caused a lock down after police say he brought a fake gun on campus and pointed it at a staff member.

Intentional or not, school districts still have to record when a weapon is found. This is where education then comes in.

"We think it's good for them to get suspended to have a good understanding that this a serious manner," said Munoz.

Below is a list of weapons confiscated from students in other local districts since 2010. All information was provided to ABC 6 News by each district's superintendent.

Byron Public Schools:
-Zero incidents that results in suspension.

Kasson-Mantorville Public Schools:
-Two knives were found at K-M High School.
-One gun was found in a vehicle and that student was suspended.
-One knife accidentally brought to K-M Elementary School.

Kingsland Public Schools:
-One pocketknife was found. Administrators say it was accidental and the student was suspended.

Southland Public Schools:
-Three pocketknives found.
-Two out of the three incidents resulted in suspension.
-All incidents were accidental.

Stewartville Public Schools:
-Three pocketknives were accidentally brought to three schools: Stewartville High School, Central Intermediate and Stewartville Middle School.
-Two students were suspended.