Eleven guns have been found at Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools halfway through the school year, more than any full year since 2007-08.
Unless second semester proves gun-free, the district is on track to return to levels seen a decade or more ago, when roughly 20 guns a year were the norm.
CMS has about 147,000 students at 168 schools. This year’s gun incidents occurred at nine schools and included one in which a parent had a gun in a car.
Earlier this week, CMS declined to provide the current tally, saying “the data is not captured that way.” After that story ran, Superintendent Ann Clark said the gun tally would be released.
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The state requires all school districts to report possession of firearms in schools or on the grounds. That category does not include BB or pellet guns.
CMS, the state’s second-largest district, consistently has more guns than Wake County, the largest. In past years, CMS officials have said guns and other violence spill in from surrounding communities, and encourage students to report when they hear that a classmate might be armed.
This week, Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block said she was not aware of the trends and did not know of anything unusual happening this year.
The question arose when a parent asked questions about a gun confiscated from a Randolph Middle School student last week. CMS notifies families at a school when a gun is found, but does not make a public announcement unless there is a specific request from reporters or others.
In response to the Observer’s request for information about guns this school year, Block gave this tally:
▪ Two guns each confiscated from students at West Charlotte and Garinger high schools.
▪ One gun each confiscated from students at Ashley Park PreK-8 School, Huntingtowne Farms Elementary, Randolph Middle, Mallard Creek High, Rocky River High and Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology.
▪ One gun found in a parent’s car at Winget Park Elementary.
The state releases annual crime and violence reports several months after the end of each school year, detailing the number of incidents at each public school and district. The 2015-16 report is expected in February. Block said there were 10 firearms in CMS that year, including one found at a bus stop.
The numbers are self-reported, which often leads to questions about whether changes in numbers are based in reality or accuracy of reporting. A 2005 Observer investigation revealed that CMS had significantly underreported incidents in 2003-04, leading district and state leaders to pledge they would improve the system.
Since the state began doing the crime and violence reports in 2001-02, the highest gun total for CMS was 28 in 2006-07.
The numbers dropped dramatically in 2008-09, when CMS reported only four guns, compared to 17 the previous year. Since then no annual tally has topped 10.
Firearms in CMS
2016-17: 11 (half year)
Source: CMS, N.C. Department of Public Instruction