Saturday, December 4, 2021

Weapons In Schools

In August of 2020, news organizations were reporting that gun shops all across the country were empty. Every person who could were buying guns (here). 

By January of 2021, the Washington Post was reporting that gun sales had, in fact, spiked all across the country in March and April of 2020 and that fear of unrest was the main reason:

"... purchases soared in March and April as the effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus led to food shortages, empty streets and millions of lost jobs. Then firearm sales peaked in July, in the weeks after massive protests against police brutality spread throughout the nation...

The flood of gun sales — about 23 million over the course of the year — represents a 64 percent increase over 2019 sales, according to a Post analysis of federal data on gun background checks. The 2020 numbers include purchases by more than 8 million first-time buyers, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group..."


The plain truth is this: During much of 2020, a great many people sought to buy handguns expressly to be sold on the black market inside urban areas during a time of great crisis. As a consequence, we now have a gun problem inside urban areas. New York City is no different. 

Our incoming mayor seems to feel this is related to organized crime. I believe him. 

"...It is my hope that we will also go further and create a Joint Gangs and Guns Task Force that combines information and resources across all relevant government agencies, which would aggressively go after illegal gun dealers and traffickers with targeted investigations and tougher penalties..."

Organized crime, via street gangs, has a way of utilizing high school students, when needed.  This is why it should be no surprise that some of these guns are showing up in New York City high schools:

A 17-year-old city student was busted with a loaded 9 mm pistol and more than $30,000 in cash inside a Brooklyn high school Wednesday, according to law enforcement sources.

A school secretary spotted what she believed to be a firearm inside the backpack of a student at the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in downtown Brooklyn around noon, sources said.

The staffer spotted the weapon while the tardy student recorded his attendance inside a school office.

NYPD units were called to the scene and discovered a stack of bills amounting to more than $30,000, along with the loaded gun, sources said.


And, as guns enter schools, so too do other weapons:

City officials placed a single metal detector in a Brooklyn school building the day after a student was busted with a loaded gun — and turned up 21 weapons in just one day, law-enforcement sources said.

Thursday’s surprise installation netted a varied arsenal — nine knives, seven cans of pepper spray, four stun guns and a pair of brass knuckles, sources said.

Look, we have a weapons problems in schools. It is no one person's fault. But the problem is upon us. No one is looking too hard at this problem, because no one wants to acknowledge such things, but we have a weapons problem in our schools. And that problem needs to be addressed -now.

To be clear, this problem is part of a much larger cascade of events; one that began during the darkest days of the lockdown and in far away places where guns can legally be purchased.

But it has now evolved into guns and other related weapons being brought into schools -both by students who seek to aggressive behavior and by students who are simply seeking to feel safe within an unsafe environment.  If this problem persists, it will continue to cascade. We will continue to see more weapons used in NYC schools and, eventually, will be faced with crisis and read about how these weapons had actually been used during an altercation to harm another child or school staff member.  If it persists, we will continue to see lower attendance in our classrooms (because children tend to stay away from violent environments) and we will eventually see a return to "zero tolerance" policies because no one will know what else to do. (Those policies will cause much more harm to many more children than any single violent altercation ever could. But, the pattern of history persists, that what we will all have).

But if this problem is addressed, in a proactive, pro-parent and student manner, it will be nothing more than a blip on the screen of history of an oddball year. 

These proactive measures should include stakeholder from the entire school community. Teachers need to be trained again on how to identify gang related behavior in schools and on ways to keep a quiet, yet careful eye open for any weapons that may be in a student's book bag or on a student's person. Support staff, including counselors and school disciplinary staff, need trainings on how to address students who have weapons. (Those trainings need to include creating space for children to express what can we can do so that they feel safe enough to come into school without having to bring a weapon, but the trainings must also include strict disciplinary measures for any weapon carrying student who is seeking to conduct aggressive behavior.) School leaders need to update their Building Safety Plans (completed every year around this time)  to include more emergency lockdown drills, procedures for how every teacher can communicate with the front office should a crisis situation erupt near (or even in) their classroom. And schools need to develop and implement a plan for keeping the safety corridor (that space between the school building and the nearest public transportation stop) safe during arrival and dismissal times. And schools need to partner with NYPD for help and for support. Because if a student winds up hurt or worse inside of a NYC public school due to weapons violence, then the NYPD will be partnering with schools and school officials will have far less voice within a crisis dynamic than they do now. 

If we don't figure out ways to establish and maintain a care filled presence in the candy stores and on the corners where city high school students gather before and after their academic day, then the NYPD soon will. That would not be a bad thing. But it does not have to be a necessary thing either. This school system has gotten guns and weapons out of schools before. It can do it again. But it needs to set the priority now before these events continue to cascade to a point where a child or school staff member becomes seriously  hurt inside a city school. 

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