Miami Herald Research Shows School Gun Violence More Rare Than Thought

Ever since the mass school shooting in Columbine, parents of students have rated outbursts of violence atop their list of fears. Every day, millions of families around Florida send their children off to class and worry if today will be the day that their fears become realities, so the Miami Herald looked into it.

According to education officials, schools remain relative refuges for children despite the fact that a shooting on campus makes the news frequently. And a three-month study by the Miami Herald backs them up.

In the first such study of its kind, the Herald reporters sifted through hundreds of police reports covering any incident where a gun was reported on school grounds. Among the reports are those that go back to 2009 and cover the state’s biggest districts including Miami-Dade and Broward.

The results were mostly reassuring. According to Herald’s David Smiley, the majority of the 600 schools studies had no gun incidents at all. About 25% of schools had at least once incident that was reported to the police.

• Two dozen guns, about 40 percent of the guns found in Miami-Dade, were reported at two middle schools — Charles R. Drew and Carol City — and four high schools — Miami Carol City, Miami Central, Miami Northwestern and Norland. These six schools were the only in the county to have at least four incidents in which authorities took firearms into custody. But none experienced a school-related shooting.

• In Broward, police reports available showed that only Plantation Middle, JP Taravella High and the Hallandale Adult Community Center dealt with more than one gun confiscation. Reports, however, weren’t nearly as comprehensive as Miami-Dade, which district Police Chief David Golt attributed to the fact that Broward polices its schools by subsidizing school resource officers at other departments, which don’t always forward reports to his office. Only about half the gun incidents reported by the district were available through the district’s police office, and the reports available documented only incidents that ended in confiscations.

For Alberto Carvalho, Miami-Dade’s superintendent, the findings were not reassuring enough. Carvalho made school safety a chief goal of his administration and ten days after giving an interview to the Herald about its report, he called a press conference to talk about the steps the district was taking to keep kids safe while they’re in the classroom.

One of the measures, announced shortly after the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was providing training for teachers to detect signs of mental illness in students. At the time, Carvalho also called for more cooperation between schools and police authorities when responding to local and national emergencies.

This year, the Miami-Dade School Board, like Broward, agreed to pay for more officers to bolster police presence at schools. Police are also launching a gun education forum in elementary schools, and announced Friday that they’re doubling up on random metal detector searches. Carvalho said he’s also pursuing legislation in Tallahassee to place more penalties on parents who don’t properly secure their guns, because he believes many students are getting their firearms at home — though police reports show guns are also sometimes stolen or found on the way to school.

“One gun in schools is too many,” Carvalho said.