School gun cases down
By Jan TenBruggencate
Advertiser Kaua'i Bureau
By Jan TenBruggencate
'ELE'ELE, Kaua'i — State Board of Education officials said they are pleased with a report they received last night indicating the number of cases in which students brought guns to public schools is dropping — and they think extensive publicity and a no-tolerance policy are the reason it's declining.
"It's down. It's significantly down. I see progress," said veteran Big Island board member Herbert Watanabe.
A Department of Education report prepared for the state Legislature found that during the 2004-2005 school year, there were 30 weapons incidents involving 35 students.
That represented "a significant decrease in the total number of incidents and the total number of different individuals involved in these violations" when compared to the previous year, the report said.
More than half of those cases — 18 — involved air guns such as BB-guns and paintball guns. There was one handgun, one sports starter gun, one incident involving explosives and nine other kinds of firearms.
Four of the 30 incidents occurred at one school — Kawananakoa Middle School in Honolulu.
In 2003-2004 there were 44 incidents involving 49 students and in 2002-2003 there were 26 incidents involving 42 students. There are more students than incidents because in some cases, more than one student is involved in bringing the weapon to school.
The Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 requires a one-year suspension when students bring firearms to school.
Schools superintendent Pat Hamamoto said the no-tolerance policy appears to be working.
"I believe that parents are more aware. It's a mandatory one-year suspension. You've got to take it seriously because it affects the child's life," she said. The schools can provide after-school-hours tutoring and other education support to suspended students.
"I think this is an issue for everybody in the community, and as a consequence people are talking about it. The spotlight is bigger and brighter nationwide on that issue," said board member Paul Vierling.
Hamamoto said she supports a single standard for all kinds of weapons, since any of them can cause serious physical injury.
"A weapon is a weapon is a weapon," she said.
Reach Jan TenBruggencate at firstname.lastname@example.org.