Lawrence High School confiscates guns

Story by Sarah Day, News Editor

A gun was found in a bookbag at Lawrence High School on Feb. 12. This was the second time in less than a week that LHS administration found a pupil in possession of a firearm.

USD 497 saw four other incidents involving weapons at school during the academic year, one of which involved the sale of firearms on school property. Two LHS students were arrested in September after a parent overheard one of the students attempting to sell a gun to another.

According to the district, the most recent incident was non-threatening. The weapon was found when administration were tipped off by the student’s classmate, and school resource officers safely located and confiscated the gun.

The gun was located on the student’s person, and the student was arrested on suspicion of having a firearm on school grounds.

The student may face other consequences as well. Board policy states that “possession of a weapon shall result in expulsion from school for a period of not less than one calendar year, except that the superintendent may recommend this expulsion requirement be modified on a case-by-case basis.”

This issue prompted a response from the District Superintendent Anthony Lewis. Lewis acknowledged the work of administration and law enforcement, but said that the incident requires a greater group effort.

“While I appreciate the quick action of our school administrators, the support of local law enforcement, and the individuals who made us aware of both of these issues so they could be resolved safely, we need the community’s help,” Lewis said in a statement. “Let’s come together for a serious discussion of how to address what has the potential to be a dangerous problem for our community.”

District Spokeswoman Julia Boyle made students and parents aware of an opportunity to discuss the matter in the LHS cafeteria during the evening of Feb. 21. Lawrence Free State High School will have a similar event in March.

The Douglas County chapter of the Be SMART campaign, which attempts to reduce child gun violence, was created by Deb Boatright. Boatright presented at the beginning of the meeting, offering new ideas to the attendees. Parents were encouraged to ensure their child has a trusted adult with whom to communicate with and to monitor social media accounts.

Following the presentation, attendees were asked to answer four questions on pieces of paper as small groups — what the community does well in providing for safety of students, what gaps exist, what further resources could help and other information attendees would want to share.

USD 497 will continue to seek resources and plan for the safety of its students. Although this is a good start, the school district needs to seek immediate solutions to ensure the daily safety of the campuses.

Such a large number of incidents within a rather short frame of time is alarming and should require drastic action. Schools should consider adopting metal detectors or bag checks for a designated period of time until a more permanent solution can be implemented.

Students should be required to go through preventative education as well, including an overview of the various warning signs of an impending threat and potential consequences for taking part in such actions. Just as the efforts of the school district have proved thus far, keeping schools safe truly is a team effort, and knowledge about the subject empowers the community.