Get Weapons Out of Schools – Start with the Schools Most Threatened

by James C. Sherlock

When we talk about getting weapons out of schools, most Virginians don’t have any concept of how many are found in schools every year.

Or think they are all in high schools. Or likely both.

When they do find out, eyes glaze over thinking of the cost and difficulty of fixing that problem in Virginia’s 2,100 or so public schools.

How could such a problem even be approached?

Consider the Willy Sutton rule.

The last full year pre-COVID, 2018-19, Virginia public schools reported 2,103 weapons incidents in 898 of its public schools. Yes, that is a disturbing number of weapons. I can find no indication on how many were guns and knives.

Yes, that only indicates the weapons that were found.

But “everybody” doesn’t do it at scale. There were seven or more weapons incidents in 41 schools.

Schools with seven or more weapons incidents 2018-19

Yes, that list contains mostly schools with over a thousand students. T.C. Williams had almost 4,000. But King William High had 722 students in 2018-19 and 14 weapons incidents.

Yes, that list contains a disturbing number of middle schools.

Yes, a school with one of the highest number of weapons incidents in the state was George Mason Elementary in Richmond. It had 922 students and 13 weapons incidents. In 180 days of school. In elementary school.

There were 22 Virginia public elementary schools with four or more weapons incidents in 2018-19. Thirty-four more elementary schools with three.

Yes, there will be a new list for 2021-22. It is not published yet, but we will see how many of those on the 2018-19 list stay near the top of the new one.

What to do? Create a list of those schools with the most weapons incidents per student for the 2021-22 school year. That number is perhaps more useful than total incidents as it may include schools in more geographically diverse locations and of different sizes.

Ask for a federal grant for a pilot program for weapons screening in the worst 30 or 40 schools on that list. Spend state and local money to fully fund the pilot.

Control entry and screen for weapons in those schools as if they were courthouses.

See what works. Expand it as affordable. Just a thought, but it seems like a start.

Teachers and parents will both appreciate it.

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43 responses to “Get Weapons Out of Schools – Start with the Schools Most Threatened”

  1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    Here is another suggestion: For students caught with weapons in schools, hold the parents responsible.

    Parents are demanding to be involved in their children’s education. Therefore, they should also be involved in the issue of weapons and held accountable when Johnny or Jane brings a gun or knife to school.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I suspect they already are, Dick. Certainly those incidents warrant arrests. Parents have to go to J&D court with junior.

      If that is not happening, then we both have to ask why not?

      The point, of course, is to keep those weapons from getting into the school in the first place. But your point is a good one.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        I am talking about more direct accountability–a fine or even a misdemeanor charge (contributing to the delinquency of a minor).

        1. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Which will undoubtedly affect the poor more than anyone else.

    2. Nancy Naive Avatar
      Nancy Naive

      I can’t say for sure, but my dollar to your dime, if a kid is caught with a weapon on school property, Child Protective Services is notified. In some respects, parents would probably prefer criminal court. Independent of State, CPS has a reputation for all manner of behavior.

      1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
        James C. Sherlock

        If it is a gun, kids are arrested – the school has no flexibility. If it is a knife, it depends. Other weapons, it depends – on whether the school is required to call the police.

        Your point about CPS is spot on. If there is any question about the home environment, guidance counselors are taught in the grad schools they must attend for their license to call CPS. It is the default position.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          does that include conflicts over transgender?

        2. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          I wasn’t even thinking knives and guns, more like a fish billy or a lock-in-a-sock.

    3. Ruckweiler Avatar

      Agree. Also, many of the lyrics in this “rap” garbage that
      these kids listen to, with which they are addicted, extol the so-called “virtue” of being armed and shooting anyone who shows you disrespect, as determined by the shooter.

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’m suspecting the vast majority of those “weapons” were knives.

    a couple of clarifying questions:

    1. how are these weapons detected? what is the process?

    2. are ordinary pocket knives considered weapons?

    3. what is a normal/expected number? It will never be zero unless the schools are literally locked down like airports and even airports have weapons get through the check-points apparently.

    is that the goal for schools? No weapons found in the school?

    4. how many altercations in schools involve weapons?

    5. is this something we think is not a problem in alternative/private schools. Would you also need the same
    no-weapons policies at voucher schools?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Come on, Larry. Security at these schools would follow the same protocols as any of the tens of thousands of other secure public buildings in the country.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Not all done the same, Different protocols at different places. no?

        Even at different schools in the US, right?

        Are kids to be checked by metal detectors and searched each day like we
        see at these “secure” buildings?

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock


          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            I don’t think the rural and less wealthy counties are going to go for that unless it is “state funded”. Likely millions .. several cents on the real estate tax.

    2. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
      James Wyatt Whitehead

      Knives less than three inches are treated differently from knives longer than 3 inches. Less than 3 is considered an offense, but not a big one.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        considered a “weapon”?

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        do you know what things are considered weapons? Is there a list?

          1. Paul Sweet Avatar
            Paul Sweet

            Do they expect students to write with crayons? Or is writing old fashioned and they use Chromebooks to take tests now?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            yep. pencils can be weapons. It goes to show that the issue is not so simple as some might have you believe.

            And metal detectors won’t help with some items.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    re: ” one of the highest number of weapons incidents in the state was George Mason Elementary in Richmond. It had 922 students and 13 weapons incidents. In 180 days of school. In elementary school.”

    If these are pocket knives, it’s like one every 14 days out of about 1000 kids.

    this is one of the worst?

    I think it’s important to know what kind of weapons.

    If pocket knives… one thing, if a hunting knife with a 7 inch blade, another. A gun, off the scale.

    But I also ask if the “solution” is metal detectors at the entrance, every school day.. off the bus, get in line, go through the metal detector – empty pockets of coins and other metal, etc.

    Looks to me , mostly a solution without a problem.

    You guys are supposed to be fiscal conservatives and I can’t believe all the expensive stuff you’ve been proposing for the govt (taxpayers) to pay for as of late.

    Once again, I point out that you have all this data precisely because of the fact that if taxpayer money is used, there needs to be transparency and accountability.

    Do we have ANY of this data for private schools or would we with voucher schools?

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      The metal detector solution seems obvious, but try to imagine the back-up at the entrances where the school buses let the kids off, especially on rainy days. Then, you have other entrances–the front entrances where parents let kids off and the side entrances near the parking lots for the kids who drive.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        and that adds another issue – we’ve been saying that schools need to be “hardened” against killers with AR-15s and such but the two most vulnerable times/places are play time/exercise and school buses pickups/dropoffs.

        Anyone who thinks this won’t cost big money is in LA LA Land.

        New phrase in the lexicon: School Bus Sally Port. schools are going to look like jails.

      2. Lefty665 Avatar

        If it is obvious, how tight do you set metal detectors? Alert on guns, knives, cell phones, lunch money, other “weapons”? Knowing what the “weapons” are makes a difference. How do the signal levels overlap? What does that give in false positives that gum up the processing or missed “weapons” if set too low? How big a mess can schools stand just getting kids in the door?

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          If you want someone to design the pilot for you, it will cost you more than you are willing to pay.

          1. Lefty665 Avatar

            Gee, your solution was a Federal grant and state and local money. Don’t you like that approach any more?

            Maybe you could design it as a huge Enterprise Architecture boondoggle as a volunteer impediment to Virginia’s school children..

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            Get help.

          3. Lefty665 Avatar

            Admiral heal thy self

    2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Try to get into a court building with a pocket knife. Leave plenty of extra time for your appointment. Tell the kids and the teachers that a pocket knife is no big deal. Leave plenty of time for nervous laughter.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Yep. if you’re gonna use a metal detector, then line up and empty your pockets…every morning – right?

        Been proposed as a law in GA and rejected. Law already allows use if decided.

        Would completely alter the school “climate” when you basically search every kid every day.

        Another really bad idea from Conservatives for most schools in Virginia.

        Let each school decide how to implement their security. Top down from Richmond or the Gov is not the way.

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          If the school climate includes students with weapons, Larry, it is unacceptable. There were 2103 reported weapons incidents in Virginia schools in one year. Every school had implemented their own security. Get a grip.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            There’s never going to be zero “weapons” especially the way that weapons are defined.

            YOU be the one that needs a “grip” guy.

            Schools already handle the issue with guidance from VDOE and the law.

            You’re making a specious argument along the lines of ” if there are ANY weapons” it’s too many and a failure and if so, then the state needs to dictate solutions.

            same old, same old Conservative
            top-down bad ideas.

            You don’t trust the schools and want a autocratic dictate from the top.


            I trust the schools to deal with the issue. I trust the people who run the schools as much or more than I would someone in Richmond who knows almost nothing about individual schools.

            If some schools end up with higher than average problems, then yes, if they can’t or won’t deal with it, some intervention but from the SB/BOS and VDOE as groups not one guy at the top playing Wizard of Oz.

            Tell me what is an acceptable number for weapons. A benchmark if you will.

            I’m betting your answer is that there is no number, any weapons are too many, right?

            We’re dealing with the real world and the need for practical solutions that are good and not perfect and unattainable.

  4. Lefty665 Avatar

    Once again you have jumped to a conclusion and gone off half cocked. With no information on what the “weapons” were you have no idea of what or how serious the issue is.

    Were some of them woke schools reporting pop tarts chewed into the form of a gun, or pointing a finger and going bang?

    At least a couple of the schools, Goochland and King William, are rural. Their issues will likely be very different than poor urban schools.

    In the post yesterday Stoney said 26% of Richmond’s violent crime occurred in about 1 square mile of the city. Are any of the Richmond schools in or around that high crime area?

    It seems likely there is a real issue in some schools. However, there is no way to have an informed discussion without the most basic of facts, but that is your MO. Don’t confuse you with the facts, you’ve made up your mind already.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      2100 bags of marshmallows. Go with that.

      1. Lefty665 Avatar

        Try getting the facts before you bloviate sometime Sherlock. It would be both a novel experience and could help you produce useful commentary. A simple example from this post would be what kind of weapons were being reported and in what quantities. Instead you give us marshmallows. Way to go Sherlock, you are no Holmes.

  5. vicnicholls Avatar

    OSMS is probably one you’re going to have a really hard time getting them away from. Anything can be made into a weapon. You have to fight. That’s a part of life. Have someone from the areas where a lot of gang violence goes on, until you understand that, you won’t understand the gun issue.

  6. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Maybe family separation?

  7. William Chambliss Avatar
    William Chambliss

    898 public schools in Virginia and only 8 of these had 10 or more “weapons” incidents? That’s less than 1%. Has that percentage leaped ahead or held steady over the years? Is this a 2nd amendment issue? And, what is considered to be a “weapon” by each of these schools? Guns? Knives? Screwdrivers? Let’s see if we can have some context, how about?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      You got it. Is there a problem? If so, what is it? And does it warrant a one-size top down from the Governor / Administration?

  8. Matt Hurt Avatar
    Matt Hurt

    First of all, there is a pretty wide range of weapon infractions in Virginia (please see the list below from the Discipline, Crime, and Violence report that divisions are required to submit to VDOE each year). There is a big difference from bringing a toy gun (discipline code W1P) and a real firearm. Please keep in mind that I, along with probably many of the readers of this blog, carried a pocket knife every day to school as a kid. It would probably be helpful to get a breakdown of the weapons found to make this discussion more relevant.

    Second, Chicago has been deemed to have the most mass shootings since 2018, yet we never hear of any mass shootings in their schools. As it turns out, many of their schools funnel kids through metal detectors every day as they enter. While I have read accounts of a student here or there finding a way to circumvent this security protocol and being found with a gun, it seems that their schools are more secure than ours, at least on the inside.

    WP0 Pneumatic Weapon-BB, Pellet, or Paint Ball Gun
    WP1 Weapon Handgun/Pistol
    WP2 Weapon Shotgun/Rifle
    W3P Toy/Look-alike Gun to School/Event
    W1P Possession of Ammunition
    W2P Possession of Chemical Substance
    WP4 Weapon, Expels a Projectile
    WP5 Knife to School/Event
    WP6 Possession of Explosive Device/Live Ammunition
    WP7 Use of Bomb or Explosive Device
    WP8 Zip Gun/Starter Gun/Flare Gun
    WP9 Other Weapons
    WT1 Taser
    WS1 Stun Gun
    W8P Razor Blades, Box Cutter, knife (less than 3 inches) School/School Event
    W9P Fireworks/Firecrackers/Stink Bombs at School/School Event

    1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
      Dick Hall-Sizemore

      Thanks for these insights. The information about the metal detectors in Chicago schools is really revealing. It seems my comment and concern about long lines and jam-ups at the entrances is not that much of a problem. If they implement these security measures in Chicago with its wintry weather, we certainly could in Virginia.

    2. LarrytheG Avatar

      I don’t have a problem with any school in Va provided the latitude on policy and means to set up whatever level of security they deem consistent with the threat. I have no problem with VDOE conducting some oversight and intervention with some schools that have issues not resolved. I trust both local schools leadership and VDOE to responsibly address the issues.

      What I don’t agree with is a Top-down dictate to all schools on security or metal detectors, etc.

      It will vary by school and by threats and some schools just don’t need metal-detectors. Others might, let them work the issue.

      There are still questions about “weapons” that will vary widely in type – and in actual use in the school.

      If a school “finds” a “weapon” like a pocket knife on a kid on or similar once every two weeks – that’s totally different than a kid with a long knife engaged in an altercation and no one in Richmond has a clue to that level of specifics and they have no business in dictating much of anything without more knowledge – which is the job of the SB and VDOE.

      All this blather about regulations that Youngkin says he wants to reduce is totally inconsistent with the almost non-stop advocacy to do top-down from Richmond things on schools.

      Reduce regulations on business – heap them deep and high on schools… and then advocate for voucher schools with LESS rules…

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