COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
After a Battle High School student was found with a weapon in their backpack Monday, ABC 17 submitted a Sunshine Request to find out how many weapons incidents have occurred on Columbia Public School properties.
CPS Spokesperson Michelle Baumstark said there have been 11 weapons incidents districtwide this 2023-2024 school year.
This is compared to 42 incidents during the 2022-2023 school year.
In an email, Baumstark said individual student data is protected by federal law, so data can't be broken down any further to make individual students or incidents identifiable.
She said the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education defines a "weapon" as anything that can cause serious physical injury, such as a gun or knives with blades longer than 2.5 inches.
The Council for School Safety Leadership works with the Missouri School Boards' Association and schools across the state to help schools identify and mitigate threats. Chief Operating Officer John McDonald said some students bring weapons to school because they think it's the cool thing to do, while others bring it with violent intentions.
"Not every threat is a shooting, but every threat deserves our very best," McDonald said.
He said said once a weapon is found, the school should call 911 or a school resource officer, decide if the school needs to go on lockdown, locate the weapon and have a trained professional address the issue.
Baumstark said CPS has school resource officers placed at high schools and a safety and security team of retired police officers throughout the district to manage day-to-day safety and security issues.
"In this day and age, we are unfortunately all concerned about the possibility of a school shooting or another tragic event taking place on one of our 41 school campuses," Baumstark said in an email. "We work daily to keep our schools safe through training, interventions, support from law enforcement and emergency responders, and deterrents such as buzz-in systems, cameras, secure vestibules, among others."
McDonald said it's a parent's responsibility to talk about weapon safety and appropriate behavior with children. He said if parents are good role models for children and involved in the conversation, it makes it easier for schools to have those safety discussions.
"We have a responsibility to keep our kids safe, and if you send your child to school, you have a responsibility to help keep your student safe and all other students safe," McDonald said.
Baumstark said CPS tends to see an uptick in confiscated items around holidays, school breaks and when the weather gets warmer. She said the district asks for parent support to check bags and make sure no unwelcome items are brought to school.
Along with parents, McDonald said it's important for adults at school to create a culture that lets kids know they're safe.
"If you create that environment, then your kids are going to trust you to tell you when something's going on, when they hear something, when they see something," McDonald said. "That's where we find that we have the biggest opportunity to make a difference."
Baumstark asks any families or students who see or hear something to tell a school official, law enforcement officer or trusted adult so that it can be investigated.
She said the district is also interested in a weapons detection system in the future.
The Columbia Public School's disciplinary policy for weapons states any student who "brings or possesses a weapon...on school property or at any school activity will be suspended from school for at least one calendar year or expelled and referred to the appropriate legal authorities."