Nearly twice a month, a child is caught with a firearm at a Hawaii public school.
That’s according to the Department of Education, which is required to report these incidents to the state.
According to a report submitted this week, for the 2014-2015 school year, there were 21 incidents where a firearm was brought to school.
Sixteen involved airguns, while five were classified as “other.”
The report clarifies: “With the revision of Chapter 19, Hawaii Administrative Rules, the definition of ‘firearm’ has been expanded beyond the federal and state laws.”
According to Hawaii Administrative Rules §8-19-2:
“Firearm” means: (1) Any weapon including but is not limited to a starter gun, shotgun, air guns which includes BB guns, pellet guns, paintball guns, or cross bow or any other instrument which will or is designed to or may readily be converted to expel a projectile;
Every island except Kauai saw some type of firearm show up in a school. Incidents were reported at eight middle schools, eight elementary schools and three high schools.
In all 21 cases, the students were expelled. Read the full report here.
There’s been a gradual decline in incidents since the 2005-2006 school year, which saw 104 incidents, but the numbers are still enough to alarm parents.
“We shouldn’t have guns in schools, even toy guns,” said one parent.
“I would like to see none actually, and I’m wondering where they’re coming up with these guns and how are they getting out of the home,” said another.
Cherise Musselman, a former elementary school teacher, said pellet guns can still be dangerous.
“Where are they getting these guns? In elementary school, that’s kind of more scary, because they don’t have an idea of what death is like or what true harm they can do,” Musselman said.
Last school year, the DOE introduced its “Be Cool and Keep Our School Safe” campaign with reminder sessions held throughout the year. Officials also monitored hot spots to help spot any violent behavior.
One local children’s group says it agrees with what the DOE is doing to keep firearms out of schools.
“In general, we endorse BOE policies because they have kids in mind and we think that the protection of kids should be utmost,” said Jeannine Souki with Hawaii Children’s Action Network.
In a statement, the DOE said:
“The Department of Education does everything we can to ensure a nurturing, positive environment for our students. Over the years, we have seen fewer and fewer serious discipline incidents, and this legislative report highlights that trend.
Over the past ten years, we saw the least amount of firearm incidents during the 2014-2015 school year. Of the 21 incidents, none of them included traditional gunpowder based firearms, with 16 incidents involving airguns and five makeshift implements.
We will continue to work with administrators to implement proactive measures that prevent violence on our campuses. We appreciate the efforts of our teachers, parents and the community in helping us keep all students safe.