More Guns, Weapons Brought Into Schools Districts Seek Community Response To Threat

Incidents of students bringing weapons to school were up in the Spokane Valley last year, and districts are reaching out to the community for help.

“We’re trying to bring a bigger fold of the community into awareness,” said Skip Bonuccelli, spokesman for Central Valley School District.

A state report released last week showed that weapons incidents rose 61 percent in Spokane County’s public schools between the 1992-93 and 1993-94 school years.

Statewide, the increase was only 35 percent.

In the West Valley School District, weapons incidents rose from 11 to 18, with an increase from zero to one in firearms brought to school.

In the Central Valley School District, 17 weapons were brought to school in 1993-1994, up from eight the year before. The number of gun incidents rose from one to three.

Freeman School District’s weapons incidents rose from zero to one. The weapon brought to school last year was a knife.

Incidents of guns being brought to East Valley schools fell dramatically from five in 1992-1993 to zero last year. Overall incidents of weapons brought to school fell from 12 to eight.

“We just lucked out,” said East Valley assistant superintendent Tom Feldhausen.

This year, however, there have been two high profile incidents in East Valley schools involving guns.

A fourth-grader was expelled in October when she brought a loaded .357 Magnum handgun to Otis Orchards Elementary. The girl did not threaten anyone with the gun.

In November, a suspected gang member threatened eight East Valley High School students with what appeared to be an assault rifle but turned out to be a BB gun. The 17-year-old, who was not a student at East Valley, was arrested and charged with eight counts of intimidation with a weapon and a single count of carrying a weapon on school grounds.

The Central Valley district is asking parents to secure any potential weapons in their homes so that their children cannot take them to school, Bonuccelli said. Parents need to teach their children that no weapon on campus is acceptable, said Dave Bouge, principal of North Pines Junior High.

Bouge said many children who do bring weapons to school do so because they feel they’re being intimidated and need to protect themselves.

In recent years, said Mike Van Matre, assistant principal at WVHS, schools have taken on responsibilities beyond the traditional curriculum.

Teachers and administrators are more involved in helping to raise and discipline students, he said.

At WVHS, for example, students can join anger management and substance abuse group sessions, he said.

Most of the schools in the Valley have held community nights featuring representatives from the sheriff’s department who speak about youth violence and gang problems.

School administrators at many Valley schools have begun carrying cellular telephones and walkietalkies in recent years, partially to seek immediate help from law enforcement if a problem arises.

Many of the threats come from outsiders coming onto school campuses, Bonuccelli said. “What we find is, as soon as you dial 911, they’re out of there,” he said.

Bouge said it’s a small percentage of students that give all the rest a bad reputation. “Less than one percent of the kids are involved in this stuff,” he said.

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