Taser confiscated from Lawrence High student at school, district says
photo by: Mike Yoder
Story last updated at 8:43 p.m. Friday
Administrators at Lawrence High School confiscated a Taser from a student after it discharged on school property Thursday morning, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said in an email to media Friday afternoon.
In a news release sent at 12:21 p.m. Friday, Boyle said a staff member “reported hearing the student discharge it while showing it to another student on campus as they were arriving to school” on Thursday. Boyle later clarified that the incident occurred “outside the building” and said the Taser “did not hit anything or anyone.” The student brought the Taser from home, Boyle said in response to follow-up questions.
“At the request of the parent to dispose of the Taser, a school administrator turned it over to a school resource officer,” Boyle wrote in the release. The district took disciplinary action “in accordance with Board Policy,” Boyle wrote.
The Journal-World heard about the incident through other sources earlier Friday and requested information from the Lawrence Police Department at 10:53 a.m. Friday.
No one was arrested in the incident and no report was made, Officer Derrick Smith said in an emailed response at 12:38 p.m. Friday. Smith said the Taser was “turned into found property” after it was provided to an officer at the school. Smith later clarified that “there has to be other elements involved with a Taser being discharged in order for it to be a criminal matter.” Possession of a Taser by a juvenile is not specifically addressed in the state’s criminal use of weapons statute, 21-6301.
It did not appear that the school district notified parents of Lawrence High students, other than the parents of the student directly involved.
When asked why the incident wasn’t reported for nearly a day and a half to media, and by extension parents and other members of the community, Boyle wrote that the district’s practice, “which is a courtesy we extend to media,” is to report incidents when schools ask for police assistance.
“This was not a police matter, other than they were asked to dispose of the Taser,” Boyle wrote, later noting that schools work with police when “an investigation has the potential to involve criminal activity.”
Boyle said the district did not inform parents and students because “not all student disciplinary matters merit notification of the entire school community.”
“Because of the way in which the LHS staff and administration managed this student disciplinary matter, it did not affect school safety nor did it disrupt the learning environment,” Boyle wrote.
The Journal-World initially learned of the incident from members of the school community who viewed it as a safety issue.
The incident marks the third time in a little over a week that a student has reportedly brought a weapon to the Lawrence High campus.
One student was arrested Feb. 6 after allegedly having a gun in his backpack at the school. Another student was arrested Wednesday after allegedly stealing a gun from his mother and carrying it on his person at the school.
In written communication and a phone call with the Journal-World Friday, Boyle disputed the characterization of a Taser as a weapon.
However, state statute 72-6131 relating to student safety and discipline includes in its definition of a “weapon” “any electronic device designed to discharge immobilizing levels of electricity, commonly known as a stun gun.”
Lawrence school board policy JCDBB also includes in its definition “any electronic device designed to discharge immobilizing levels of electricity, commonly known as a stun gun.”
The board policy also states, “A student determined to be in possession of a weapon at school, on school property or at a school supervised activity shall be reported to the appropriate law enforcement agency(ies).”
In an email to the Journal-World just before 7:30 p.m. Friday, Boyle said that since her original response, the district has found that a stun gun is listed as a weapon both by the state and by board policy, which both include a broader definition of weapons than federal or criminal statutes.
Classes were not in session Friday because of a districtwide snow day.
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