Three guns were seized on Broward County school campuses over the past week, one used in a homicide, another confiscated from an 8-year-old.
Tuesday, three elementary school pupils were caught with BB guns, two at Miramar Elementary School alone.
Weapons incidents in Broward County public schools for the 2006-07 year, page 18A or visit SunSentinel.com/weapons for a breakdown online.
Palm Beach County schools.
In Broward, during the 2007-08 school year, 503 weapons were seized from students, up from 315 the previous school year. In Palm Beach County, 277 weapons were confiscated in the 2007-08 term, a number that has fallen over the past four years.
Northeast High School in Oakland Park had the most weapons seized in Broward County: 12 in the 2006-07 school year, the last year statistics were broken down by school. Miramar Elementary had eight weapons seized that year.
In Palm Beach County, Seminole Ridge High School in Loxahatchee had the most weapons seized: 11 in the 2006-07 school year. Benoist Farms, Lantana and Morikami Park elementary schools each had five.
Hundreds of weapons in schools - officials don't differentiate between guns and knives - worries educators and parents.
"It scares me that ... you actually have elementary school students who have access to different kinds of guns and bring them to school," Broward School Board member Robin Bartleman said.
Broward schools Superintendent James Notter said one reason his district's numbers are up is increased reporting by schools. "We don't want to mask any incidents on our campuses," he said.
While guns are the main concern, state officials who compile statistics provided by the school districts define weapons as guns, knives, tear gas guns, brass knuckles, or chemical weapons.
A weapon at school led to a tragedy last Wednesday, when Amanda Collette was shot and killed by a single bullet in a Dillard High School hallway. Police charged her longtime friend, Teah Wimberly, with her murder. Both girls were 15 and sophomores in the school's performing arts program. Classmates said Collette had spurned Wimberly's advances.
Notter credits intervention programs such as the Silence Hurts project with persuading students to alert teachers or security officers if they see a weapon. That's what happened during last week's spate of guns on campus - except in Collette's death.
Parents, too, can help keep weapons from school by keeping them secure at home and monitoring what goes into kids' backpacks. "I don't think we say enough as parents, 'Don't bring that to school,' " said Jeanne Jusevic, parent of two Monarch High School students.
Jusevic theorizes younger students may bring weapons to school just to show off. All students should be reminded that "it doesn't matter if your dad says it's OK to have a BB gun; it's not OK to bring this stuff to school," she said.
Palm Beach County schools Superintendent Art Johnson said one hurdle in reducing weapons on campus is student reluctance to tell on friends. "That code of silence, and in some cases just outright fear of retaliation, keeps a lot of people from getting involved," he said.
Both superintendents consider the use of metal detectors impractical and ineffective.
"I think what we've come to realize is that all the hardware and facilities in the world are not going to prevent someone who is hell-bent on doing a wrong deed from having an opportunity to do that," Johnson said.
School officials and juvenile justice experts blamed what Johnson termed an "outlaw culture" for increased violence in schools and for students' easy acceptance of guns and other weapons.
"We live in a culture where aggression and aggressive behavior is everywhere. It's in video games, it's on TV, it's on the street," said Maria Schneider, the assistant state attorney in charge of the Juvenile Division at the Broward State Attorney's Office.
Lawanda Ravoira, director of the National Council on Crime and Delinquency's Center for Girls and Young Women in Jacksonville, said students usually feel compelled to arm themselves out of fear.
"It's often kids who have been bullied, kids who have been picked on, and this gun, this weapon, gives them a sense of power when they are feeling so powerless," she said.
Schneider said while more weapons may be found on campus, that doesn't necessarily translate into more danger for students. "If you look at statistics across the country," she said, "children are still safer in school than they are on the street."
Under Broward's Silence Hurts program, students who see a weapon or any other threat to safety are urged to call an anonymous hotline at 754-321-0911.
Staff writer Marc Freeman contributed to this report.
Robert Nolin can be reached at email@example.com or 954-356-4525.