Troubleshooters: What happens when students bring a gun to JCPS schools

It’s been a rough couple of years for Jefferson County Public Schools, from COVID to a mass exodus of teachers and the unrelenting number of guns at schools.
Published: Aug. 10, 2022 at 6:04 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - It’s been a rough couple of years for Jefferson County Public Schools, from COVID to a mass exodus of teachers and the unrelenting number of guns at schools.

Through continuing coverage and investigations, WAVE News spoke to several parents who are worried sick about weapons found in schools, sometimes hitting a boiling point.

“It’s out of control,” one parent yelled outside of Kammerer Middle School last May after a gun scare. “For the safety of my g****** kids.”

It was thanks to sources, parents and teachers that 24 separate reports of guns brought to school by students in the last school year were confirmed.

JCPS does not alert the media when a gun is found. They do, however, respond when specifically asked about each individual tip.

When WAVE News Troubleshooters got an open records request back from the district in late July, the number of gun incidents, not just the number of guns seized, was 35.

“(The district) can’t get away from it,” Christopher 2X, from the youth violence prevention organization Game Changers said.

2X’s organization focuses on youth violence, and has talked to dozens of JCPS students who are simply in school trying to learn.

Their innocence, he said, is gone.

“Those days are over with,” 2X said. “They totally understand these are the real-life possibilities and factual situations that happen now in school. It’s very sad, but it’s real.”

He described secondary trauma, stating it’s when kids absorb the violence around them that they don’t directly participate in. He said kids are fearful that, one day, those same guns described by JCPS as not being used in a threatening manor may, in fact, hurt them or an innocent friend.

“Kids can’t even verbalize their fears,” 2X said.

He added that they know who exactly is in their schools walking the hallways.

That prompted us to ask, what did happen to those kids who were found to have had a gun at school?

According to JCPS policy, the student with the gun “will be referred to an alternative school site for a period of one calendar year and not be allowed to return to their previously assigned school.”

Here’s how that played out in those 35 gun incidents last school year.

According to the district, four of those 35 students were placed on NTI. They suspended 29 of the students, but none for longer than 11 days.

The district also said that those 29 students were assigned to an alternative school, but none of them were assigned permanently.

This means after an evaluation, those 29 students may be placed in a different JCPS school. Because of state laws preventing the identification of students, parents at the new school may not even know.

The students also have to complete a program before they are evaluated to go back to a regular school.

“What would you tell a parent who says ‘I’m nervous about my kid going back?’” we asked JCPS Superintendent Dr. Marty Pollio.

“Well, I’d say we’ve invested and done a whole lot since last year,” Pollio said

Pollio points to school safety administrators recently hired and assigned to schools. The roles would be filled by civilians, not law enforcement, to oversee safety issues.

Then, there are the new School Resource Officers, or SROs. Out of the goal of 30 armed officers for the start of this school year, so far there’s 17. That’s counting the supervisors.

“Access to guns in our communities right now is making the job very difficult for everybody across this nation,” Pollio said. “We need to do something to keep guns out of the hands of kids and children.”

With eight JCPS students killed and 87 others shot this past school year, 2X said some of those children bringing a gun to school feel like they have no choice.

“Those kids don’t mind saying I’m the tough person, I’m the person that’s about packing a gun, I’m that person that’s about letting you know that I will use a gun, whether it’s in a neighborhood or, God forbid, one of Jefferson County public schools,” 2X said.

He believes that child or teen feels like they have to carry a gun to survive.

“In their mindset it is, in their thinking process it is, it’s a sad thinking process but it’s a reality right now,” 2X said.

The district’s policy states they may place a student whose been charged with or convicted of a felony outside of campus, in an alternative school. A court liaison informs JCPS when there’s such a case, they said.

A capacity number was not provided by the district for the two alternative schools, but they provided an average attendance of 185 students at both Breckenridge Metro and Minor Daniels.

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