After Randolph Middle School notified parents late Friday that a student had been caught with a gun on campus, at least one worried mother wanted to know more.
But neither she nor the Observer was able to get such details as whether the gun was loaded or what led up to the confiscation. On Wednesday, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools spokeswoman declined to even say how many guns have been found on CMS campuses this school year.
The state requires school districts to track several types of criminal and violent incidents, including firearms at schools. But Renee McCoy said that “we don’t have a running tally, the data is not captured that way.”
She said information about guns at CMS schools would have to come from the state, which does an annual report several months after the end of a school year. The most recent report posted is for 2014-15.
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“There are just so many unanswered questions,” said parent Tish Nadelman. “As a parent, you just want to know that your kids are safe and are in a safe place for learning. By CMS not answering questions, it leaves you feeling unsure about where you have chosen to put your kids.”
Randolph is an International Baccalaureate magnet school, which draws students from half the county by offering an advanced curriculum.
“Today, a student brought a gun on campus,” the notice from Principal Brian Bambauer said. “The gun was confiscated and the student will be disciplined according to the code of conduct. No students or staff were injured.”
The CMS code of conduct says that any student who brings a firearm to school, loaded or unloaded, will be suspended for 365 days and can be permanently expelled.
The call from Bambauer encouraged families to contact the school if they had more questions. But when Nadelman sent Bambauer a list of questions, including whether the gun was loaded, where it was found and whether there was a struggle or lockdown, the principal answered none of them. Instead, he assured her he was working with law enforcement to investigate and would be meeting with classes to assure them their school is safe.
Independently, the Observer sent the public information office a list of follow-up questions, including what kind of gun was found, whether it was loaded and the age and grade of the student who had it. CMS provided no answers, even though none of that information is protected by law. School districts cannot release names of students who are disciplined, but they can – and CMS has in past years – release descriptions of incidents, including basic information about students involved.
“We would not be able to provide any information about the student such as age, grade etc. data on firearms on campuses is kept by DPI as part of the crime and violence data, they have a school by school breakdown on one of the data files,” McCoy replied by email.
Under previous administrations, CMS has also provided up-to-date reporting on guns at schools.
On the most recent state report, released in March, CMS reported seven guns at four high schools in 2014-15, with none at middle schools. That was about average for the previous seven years, when the district logged three to 10 guns a year. It was down from a four-year stretch that started in 2003, when the district’s annual gun count ranged from 17 to 28.