Increased Presence of Weapons in Washington’s Schools

Washington schools reported a higher number of weapons on school grounds during the 2022-2023 school year compared to the previous year, according to a recent report. The report from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction indicated an 11.6% increase in weapon incidents.

In the 2022-2023 school year, Washington’s public and private schools disclosed 2,275 weapon-related incidents, with 316 incidents involving firearms. All firearm incidents were reported in public schools, while the majority of other reports pertained to knives, daggers, or other weapons.

Notably, the number of firearm-related incidents specifically rose in the 2022-2023 school year, in contrast to 236 incidents in the 2021-2022 school year as per the previous report by the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“I wish I could say I was really shocked by this increase, but sadly I’m not that shocked,” mentioned Johnny Lupinacci, an associate professor at Washington State University specializing in schools’ and social justice’s intersection.

While national data for the 2022-2023 school year remains unavailable, statistics from the 2021-2022 period reveal that Washington ranked 11th among states in students bringing firearms to schools.

A Washington Post study highlighted a significant surge in guns appearing in schools nationwide, with an estimated 1.1 million students attending schools where a gun was discovered and reported in the media in the 2022-2023 school year.

Washington’s stringent gun legislation, including recent enforcement of three gun control laws this year, underscores the state’s commitment to firearm regulations.

Lupinacci commended the state’s rigorous gun laws and advocated for making firearm acquisition even more challenging, as he believes obtaining a gun is still too easily attainable in certain restrictive areas.

State regulations prohibit possessing firearms and other dangerous weapons on school premises, except for security and law enforcement personnel. Moreover, students caught with firearms on school grounds face expulsion, though superintendents can adjust these penalties on a case-by-case basis.

Lupinacci pointed out that students typically bring weapons to school due to feeling unsafe and the misguided perception that arming themselves is the only way to ensure safety.

Everytown for Gun Safety revealed that firearms are the principal cause of death among American youth, emphasizing the pressing need for stricter gun laws to address this alarming statistic.

Despite the rise in weapons at Washington schools, expulsions related to weapon incidents declined by 49%, with schools opting for student suspensions instead. The 2022-2023 school year saw a 12% increase in suspensions compared to the previous year.

Lupinacci acknowledged the significance of “zero tolerance” policies regarding weapons in schools, particularly firearms, and praised Washington schools for their balanced approach of reducing expulsions while increasing suspensions with empathy and firmness.

He stressed the importance of broader societal discussions encompassing reducing child poverty, enhancing school funding, and addressing escalating mental health challenges among youth as pivotal strategies to diminish weapons in schools.

“Our public school systems can and ought to be that safety net in our communities,” Lupinacci emphasized, urging comprehensive community care to create a safer and more secure school environment.

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