Concern for the safety of schoolchildren in the wake of the 2012 mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado has generated much discussion and a number of policy proposals in Texas. While Governor Perry may advocate arming teachers, others would rather keep guns out of schools entirely. Texas students, meanwhile, seem to be doing their part to keep weapons out of classrooms by leaving theirs at home—or so indicates a recent report.
In the last six years, Texas experienced a 35 percent decrease in the number of guns, knives, and other dangerous weapons found on school grounds, wrote Tawnell D. Hobbs for the Dallas Morning News. Texas school districts reported 798 instances of students possessing such weapons in the 2011-2012 school year. This was down from 1,219 cases in 2005-2006.
Texas school districts are required to report weapons incidents to the Texas Education Agency if students are removed from class for one day or more. The seriousness of such incidents depends on the weapons involved. Weapons are ranked as follows: guns are deemed the most severe, followed by illegal knives, clubs, and other weapons, such as brass knuckles. What exactly caused the number of weapons in schools to drop is subject to opinion.
Debbie Ratcliffe, spokeswoman for the Texas Education Agency, told Tawnell that credit for the general decrease in weapons on school grounds is due to the presence of metal detectors, armed security guards, and other security techniques. “Districts are taking a proactive approach to safety measures, thus leading to reductions in the number of illegal weapons,” said Ratcliffe.
It’s also possible that the students themselves are being more vigilant about reporting weapons in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. “What we’re seeing is students turning in students,” said Gary Hodges, deputy police chief of Dallas ISD. “They don’t want these weapons on campuses. They want to be in a safe environment, too.”
Though reports are down across the board from the 2005-2006 numbers, Tawnell points out that instances involving firearms are up from the previous year, increasing from 113 to 123. Some experts, like Kenneth Trump, believe that this up tick is directly correlated to the recent string of mass shootings. Trump, who is president of the National School Safety and Security Services, a security consulting firm, proposes the previous decline could be connected to the lull in high-profile violence, which causes students and authorities to be less vigilant. “When numbers go down substantially,” said Trump, “the question is always, ‘Is there a decrease in actual incidents or a decrease in reporting?’”