School Climate & Safety

Students Found With Guns at School on Rise

By Nirvi Shah — June 11, 2013 1 min read
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The number of students who were caught with guns at school in the last few years has gone up, new U.S. Department of Education figures show.

According to the latest report about the Gun-Free Schools Act, there was a 10 percent increase in the number of guns found on students from the 2008-09 school year to the 2010-11 school year. The 1994 Gun-Free Schools Act requires students who bring firearms to school to be expelled for at least a year.

The number of guns on campus had been dropping since the 2005-06 school year. The Education Department hasn’t released data about guns in school for more than 2 1/2 years and quietly posted the latest figures on its website in April. The report doesn’t offer any explanations on why rate are going up again.

In all, during 2010-11 school year, 2,761 students were caught with guns at school. Take a look at the trends since the law was enacted in this handy chart. (Click on it to view it larger.)

The Gun-Free Schools Act is often considered the legislation that prompted the widespread adoption of zero tolerance discipline policies for not only carrying weapons on campus, but for having drugs or behaving violently. In recent years, school districts have been shifting away from these policies, which data have shown are used for much lesser offenses and seem to disproportionately affect students who are black, Latino, or have disabilities.

In the case of the majority of students who brought handguns, other destructive devices, rifles or shotguns to school, their expulsions didn’t actually last for a full year, the Education Department report says. For each of the school years from 2007-08 school year through 2010-11 school year, more than 60 percent of students’ expulsions were modified to last less than a year. And in 2010-11, 68 percent of students found with firearms had their expulsions modified to last less than a year.

And even though the number of firearms found on students in recent years has risen, as the chart shows, it’s still a pretty rare thing: Only 5.5 students per 100,000 were found with a gun or explosive device in the 2010-11 school year—exactly the same rate as in 2006-07.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.