Lawrence High student allegedly brings gun to school; incident is second in a week, fifth in district in past year
photo by: Sylas May/Journal-World Photo Illustration
Story last updated at 10:35 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12:
For the second time in the span of a week, a Lawrence High School student has allegedly brought a gun to school.
In an email to LHS parents and a news release to local media, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle wrote, “Acting on a tip that a student may have a gun at school,” administrators worked with school resource officers to conduct a search and confiscate the weapon.
There was no incident with the gun and no threat to students or staff, Boyle wrote. In another email late Tuesday, she said that the gun was found on the student’s person.
In response to a follow-up question from the Journal-World, Boyle wrote that she had no further information about the tip.
Boyle wrote late Tuesday that the district will hold a conversation for parents, students and staff from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 21 in the cafeteria of Lawrence High School. Another discussion will take place in March at Free State High School, she wrote.
• 10:13 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2019: Lawrence school district announces immediate actions to address gun incidents on campus; community conversation scheduled
In the release earlier in the day, Superintendent Anthony Lewis stressed the need for the community to discuss the issue of gun incidents in schools.
“While I appreciate the quick action of our school administrators, the support of local law enforcement, and the individuals who made us aware of both of these issues so they could be resolved safely, we need the community’s help,” Lewis said in the release. “Let’s come together for a serious discussion of how to address what has the potential to be a dangerous problem for our community.”
Lawrence High School senior Jaylynn Hicks, 18, said she thinks that’s a conversation that should’ve already taken place.
“The first day it happened, there should have been a big meeting,” Hicks told the Journal-World. “It shouldn’t have taken two incidents for this to be brought to attention in that form.”
She said that she used to feel safe in school, but after the past week — “not really.”
“It’s kind of hard to go to school every day thinking, ‘Oh, is there going to be another kid at school with a gun?'” she said, and noted that people at school seem more on edge. “… You can tell that some of the kids were kind of shaken up today.”
Asked if there was anything the district could do to make her feel safer right now, Hicks said she’d been asking herself that question all day, and one of her teachers had asked her class as well. The only thing that came to mind was airport-style scanners to check students’ bags every day, she said.
“That would be expensive, but that’s the only thing I can think of,” she said.
Boyle wrote that the school is working with the Lawrence Police Department, and that disciplinary action had been taken in accordance with board policy.
In response to questions from the Journal-World, Lawrence Police Officer Shawn Gross said that administrators contacted school resource officers at 8:21 a.m. Tuesday “about concerns of a student on school grounds with a firearm.”
The district’s email to parents and subsequent news release came at 10:22 a.m. and 10:37 a.m., respectively.
Gross said that the student, a juvenile, was arrested on suspicion of having a firearm on school grounds.
“There have been no reports made involving threats or injuries regarding this incident,” Gross said.
Board policy for these types of incidents is as follows: “Possession of a weapon shall result in expulsion from school for a period of not less than one calendar year, except that the superintendent may recommend this expulsion requirement be modified on a case-by-case basis.”
Tuesday’s incident was the fifth time in the past year that a gun was reported in possession of a student on the grounds of a high school in Lawrence.
Most recently, last week on Wednesday, Feb. 6, a student allegedly brought a gun to school in his backpack. He was already in the company of administrators after destroying school property in class when administrators received a tip from several students that he may have a gun in his bag, the district told the Journal-World.
He was charged as a juvenile with criminal use of weapons, for allegedly being under 18 and possessing a gun with a barrel less than 12 inches long, and with property damage, for allegedly damaging a window at the school, according to a complaint filed Thursday in Douglas County District Court.
In April 2018, a 17-year-old boy brought a loaded handgun in his backpack to Free State High School. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor in September, and a judge later sentenced him to serve six months of probation.
In mid-September, two students at Lawrence High School reportedly exchanged a stolen handgun on the high school’s campus. The student who ended up with the gun pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge earlier this week. A case is pending against the teen who allegedly stole the gun.
Later in September, police investigated after a gun was found under the seat of a student’s vehicle at Free State High. Police said the gun was allegedly used in a hunting trip and then left, unloaded, under a seat of the vehicle. Dorothy Kliem, trial assistant for the Douglas County District Attorney’s office, said in an email to the Journal-World last week that “After careful review of the reports our office has declined to file criminal charges in this case because there was no intent to commit a crime.”
More on recent incident at LHS
Coverage of other incidents in past year
• Sept. 14, 2018 — 2 arrested after reported gun sale between students at Lawrence High School
• April 9, 2018 — Gun found in backpack at Free State High School; student arrested
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