There’s been a lot of talk about keeping weapons out of schools since a gunman opened fire at a Parkland school, killing 17 people.
Students who staged a walkout and other protests Wednesday tell us fellow students have been bringing guns and knives into their classrooms. State records show they’re right in an alarming number of cases.
According to the most recent data available from the Florida Department of Education, there were 1786 weapons possession incidents statewide in the 2015-16 school year. 128 of those incidents occurred in Hillsborough County schools—the most in any Bay area county.
Hillsborough High School had a total of seven reports involving a loaded semi-automatic handgun, various tactical knives and a set of brass knuckles. In one of those cases, a student with autism stabbed another student in the back with a knife after being taunted. Another student tried to ditch a loaded .25 caliber gun in a trash can when he was removed from a classroom.
Van Buren Middle School also had seven reported weapons possession incidents, three of which involved a steel knife, a box cutter and a set of brass knuckles and resulted in arrests. It’s still not clear what weapons were involved in the four other incidents.
The ignoble award for the most weapons possessions in a Hillsborough school goes to East Bay High School where nine such incidents happened in the 2015-16 school year. We’re still waiting on details in those cases form the Hillsborough Sheriff’s Office.
Out of the nine counties in the News Channel 8 viewing area, Pinellas had the second highest number of weapons in school incidents that year with 68, followed by Pasco with 61, and Manatee with 33. Sarasota had the lowest number of reported weapons with just 3.
So, do students and their parents have just cause to be worried about their safety? According to the data we’ve seen that depends which county and which school they attend.
“I wouldn’t say that I felt unsafe but there are days when I’m a little bit wary of my surroundings,” said Clearwater High student William Wallace. According the DOE Clearwater High had one weapon possession incident in 2015-16. That’s almost as safe as it gets in the current school environment.
Tonight at 6 p.m., NewsChannel 8 will show you how Tampa Bay area School districts stack up when it comes to weapons in our schools.