More weapons showing up in Washington’s schools

(Courtesy of Aristide Economopoulos / for NJ Monitor)

There were more weapons brought into Washington’s schools during the last school year than the year before.

That’s according to a new report from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, which found an 11.6% increase in weapons on school grounds in the 2022-2023 school year compared to 2021-2022.

During the 2022-2023 school year, 2,275 weapon incidents were reported by Washington’s public and private schools. Of those, 316 involved possession of a firearm. All of the gun incidents were reported at public schools. Most other reports involved knives, daggers or “other weapons.”

However, the presence of guns specifically increased, as there were 236 incidents involving firearms during the 2021-2022 school year, according to last year’s report from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction.

“I wish I could say I was really shocked by this increase, but sadly I’m not that shocked,” said Johnny Lupinacci, an associate professor at Washington State University who studies the intersection of schools and social justice.

While national data on the 2022-2023 school year is not yet available, data from 2021-2022 show that, among states, Washington had the 11th highest rate of students bringing firearms to school.

Nationwide, the number of guns showing up in schools is soaring. A Washington Post investigation found 1 in 47 school-age children, or about 1.1 million students, attended a school where at least one gun was found and reported on by the media in the 2022-2023 school year — and the actual number of guns in schools may be much higher.

Washington has enacted some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country and passed three gun control laws just this year. 

Lupinacci praised the state’s strict gun laws and said his “gut reaction” to seeing increasing numbers of guns in schools is to make it even harder to obtain a firearm. He said getting a gun remains just “far too easy,” even in some of the most restrictive jurisdictions.

State law prohibits possession of firearms and other dangerous weapons on school grounds, except for security and law enforcement. The law also requires the expulsion of students found in possession of a firearm anywhere on school grounds, although superintendents can modify expulsions on a case-by-case basis.

Lupinacci said students primarily bring weapons into schools because they feel unsafe and believe “the only way they could be safe is to somehow arm themselves.”

Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data for 2022, analyzed by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that advocates for stricter gun laws.

Despite the increase in weapons in Washington’s schools, expulsions due to weapon incidents were down 49%. Schools chose to suspend students instead: Compared to the 2021-2022 school year, there was a 12% increase in suspensions in 2022-2023.

Lupinacci said “zero tolerance” policies around weapons in schools are important, particularly with firearms, and praised Washington’s schools for reducing expulsions and increasing suspensions, calling the schools’ response empathetic but firm.

He also said the solution to reducing weapons in schools involves a “larger discussion” about reducing child poverty, increasing school funding and dealing with rising mental health issues among America’s youth.

“Our public school systems can and ought to be that safety net in our communities,” Lupinacci said. “What we see is when we don’t take care of our community, kids experience school in a way where it feels dangerous or unsafe.”

by Grace Deng, Washington State Standard

Washington State Standard is part of States Newsroom, a nonprofit news network supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Washington State Standard maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Bill Lucia for questions: Follow Washington State Standard on Facebook and Twitter.

  1. Anyone ever thought it’s not the gun that is the problem? Did you know in the past access to a gun was much easier to come by, but yet we didn’t have this problem to the extent we do today. Something has gone wrong. I might offer reasons that don’t involve a weapon but I am not likely to be heard. I just ask do you think if we continue down this road things will get better? For change you have to win the hearts and minds and you are failing.

  2. What an absolute tragedy. Did this country learn nothing from the Columbine High School shooting? Evidently not, since it keeps happening over and over again.

    1. What was learned, tragically, is that when there is an active shooter that those with guns (hopefully law enforcement) must engage the shooter immediately to distract them and prevent further harm. At Columbine, law enforcement waited outside in safety until the shooting stopped. The same with the shootings in the Texas school and in Florida (where the responsible armed adult ran away).

  3. More useful information would be an honest analysis of money spent by schools (tax payer dollars) on SEL (Social Emotional Learning) that is supposedly to reduce violence. How’s that working out?
    Also useful would be the statistics on 1. kids from fatherless homes, and 2. kids on anti depressants and ADHD and similar medications (shown to produce suicide ideation and violence), and 3. kids on unrestricted social media and internet.
    The violence is the symptom of a much larger problem. Kids need us to look at these issues, not ban guns. Guns don’t commit crimes. People in distress and with no moorings commit crimes. Let’s work to reach their humanity and face and uproot the real problems.

    1. Your statement would make more sense, Tamara, if you would include these three words that you left out: Guns don’t commit crimes. People in distress and with no moorings AND WITH GUNS commit crimes.
      Our country has always had a history of violence involving guns. In the past we did not have such lethal weapons available to such a large segment of the population.
      As indicated by Charlton Heston’s exclamation that he would never relinquish his firearm, we do need to win “the hearts and minds” of people regarding gun ownership and use. And according to polls a vast majority of people approve of red-flag rules, universal background checks, and bans on military-style weapons and large capacity magazines. We now need our legislatures to enact the necessary laws.

  4. Where are the parents? Raising children is a responsibility, and keeping in touch with your teens is even more work. Adult examples matter. There’s a lot of programs on TV that are not good examples. I was horrified to see that there is a program called Road Rage, for example. Let’s help parents parent, not just keep on having kids.

  5. There would be many fewer guns in schools if every gun-owning parent would keep their firearm(s) securely locked up and inaccessible to children. No parent should ever assume their child is perfect or immune from bad influences, or from mental health issues. Don’t risk tragedy. Keep your firearm(s) locked away from temptation.

    Keeping weapons locked up also protects them from theft by common criminals. Police agencies tell us many guns enter the illegal market by theft from well-intended law-abiding gun owners who neglect to secure their weapons.

    1. Rodger there were over 2200 incidents of weapons. Are you trying to say guns are the problem when they were less than 20% of total weapons problems. A good stab with a knife is as good as any bullet. Should we have to lock up our kitchen knives also? I am sorry but I don’t think the problem has anything to do with the tool until we fix that our problems aren’t going to get any better. I would say young people are getting just what they need to continue ever more extreme behavior resulting in ever greater problems.

      1. Jim, please reread my comment. All I’m “trying to say” is what even the NRA advises gun owners~ secure your weapons, keep them out of the hands of children. Why would anyone even suggest otherwise? Firearms are stand-off weapons~ they kill at a distance, unlike your kitchen knives or other such tools.

        In no rational world should children have unrestricted access to firearms, for reasons all too obvious for people who follow the news. We remember October 24, 2014, when 15-year-old Jaylen Fryberg shot five fellow students at Marysville Pilchuck High School, killing four of them, before shooting and killing himself. He obtained the gun from his father. Had that father kept that gun secured, locked up, five people including his own son would be alive today.

        1. Rodger I expect gun owners to keep their fire arms secure. Why people don’t do it is part of the problem we have today no responsibility no accountability. For just about any action until it results in a tragedy kids are stealing cars and going on high speed adventures and killing people. They are car jacking people and smashing the cars into buildings to rob them and more. These aren’t the actions becoming of our youth and this behavior continues to escalate it sure isn’t because their parents left a gun laying around. The question is why are the youth behaving so bad? Having a weapon at school is just a indication of society’s failure. Not the cause.

  6. Some youth are behaving badly because they have too much bad or no good role modeling. When you have one or two bum parents or no parents at all as your role models and/or political leaders who encourage violence to solve problems, there is a good chance you might become a violent bum yourself. But, that’s just part of it all. We are and have been for quite some time a rather violent society using gun violence as a common control technique. In our history we controlled native indigenous land owners with superior weapons (guns and gun powder) and then we made slaves out of African people of dark skin color to work the land that we stole from the indigenous people with the use of guess what? – superior weapons (guns and gunpowder). Like it or not we are a gun based and somewhat gun worshiping culture. There are no easy answers to all this. If gun ownership rights are built into our Constitution as the NRA claims, then wouldn’t it be a good idea to teach responsible gun ownership and handling in our schools? I had Archery taught to me at good ‘ol EHS by Coach Rowe in 1963. Why not teach marksmanship and gun handling responsibility beginning around the 6th. grade? Maybe that would save a few lives.

    1. Jim Fairchild – Rather than fulminate about how awful everything is, how about some positive, constructive ideas like Clinton’s?

      And for the record, believe it or not, I know a number of kids whom I completely trust and honor for their hard work and integrity.

      1. I know some good kids to the increase and severity of crimes being committed by youth is growing. Suggestions harsher punishment for kids making them pay restitution hold parents accountable more expulsions not less. If you car Jack someone and get caught you shouldn’t be sleeping in your bed that same night and be back at school the next day. Kids need to learn early there will be real consequences for bad behavior. Soft on crime, restorative justice or whatever you want to call it isn’t working. Small things lead to bigger things and before you know it your 18 years old and locked up for decades or longer. I think there is some instruction given to young kids about not handling guns and letting parents or teachers know about it. A gun safety class might not be a bad idea. I know some places used to have target or skeet shooting sports at some schools my daughter’s husband used to take his shotgun to school in the 90s. It seems today when a kid gets caught stealing a candy bar instead of being dragged back up to the store and made to apologize and pay for it with their allowance and get put on restriction today mom just says why didn’t you get me one. Between the parents and the schools it ain’t working

        1. Preventative programs? After school programs? Youth leagues instead of varsity sports? Job training/trade school? Smaller classes? Better, fact-based sex ed?

          All of which cost money, but money well spent on the future – but everyone hates to pay for such programs – “Cut taxes!” “Why should I pay for some other kid? Mine are all out of school.”

          “The fault dear Brutus, is in ourselves, not in our stars.”Mat

      2. Nathaniel how about earlier start times and later release times how about more days in school so those idle hands have less time to become the devil’s tools? Maybe they can even incorporate some of the programs you mentioned. If it is going to cost me more then I don’t want to have my kids go unsupervised many hours and many days during the year. Because I have to work and that takes 10 hours away and the kids are only in school for 6 plus all the early releases and late starts and whole days cause I have to work 260 days a year and the kids are only there for 180. How is a single parent to do it?

        1. Some interesting ideas! As a former teacher who was usually at school by 7 or 7:30, and rarely home before 6., I’m aware that teachers need some time, too – but rotating staff perhaps? More kids in lifetime sports, as opposed to exclusive – and elitist – varsity-oriented sport activities?

      3. I am thinking college students and a couple of teachers running a morning program and acting as teacher assistant for part of the day they could get paid and get credit to a degree same for the afternoon so we we don’t have to double the amount of high paid certified teachers this wouldn’t over burden teachers during the regular day and help them with their work so maybe we could even have a little longer instructional day. Parents could opt out or just do one or the other the facilities are already there sports could be part of that. I know some places offer something like this but it is more like a paid daycare.just ideas but in my opinion just throwing more money at the same thing really doesn’t help the kids and parents that need it.

  7. It’s totally ironic that the best leg up in living a good life that any of us can have – good parenting – is totally a matter of the luck of the draw. The fact that so many young people manage to overcome the obstacle of some pretty bad parenting is a major miracle in itself and something to be greatly celebrated when it happens.

  8. One way in and out of the schools, metal detectors and security guards. I don’t understand why this hasn’t been implemented yet, after all these years.

  9. As a retired school teacher it warms my heart to see people engaged in positive discourse about how to improve schools. One frequent MENS contributor even volunteered to raise his taxes to do so!
    The article by Grace Deng deals with guns as well. Ms Deng reports that only 14% of the weapons incidents in schools since 2006 involved guns. Pencils, compasses and scissors in the hands of a student bent on inflicting harm can be dangerous. One hopes that reasonable people recognize the greater potential for injury and death by firearms.
    There will always be people young and old fighting demons caused by a variety of ills. There does not need to be such a large number of suicides and homicides caused by people with guns.
    We hear a lot from the NRA and its acolytes about responsible gun owners’ fear of loss of their rights. Are these the ones who don’t secure their guns or ammo? Are they the tens of thousands each year arriving at airports with guns that they forgot were in their carryons? The responsible gun owners I know support reasonable measures like bans on some weapons, universal background checks and red flag laws.

  10. Mr. Fairchild, “A good stab with a knife is as good as any bullet”. If you were trying to make a joke it is not funny. If you are being serious it is sad. Modern guns leave little to recognize of the face of a child (much less an adult). The organs in their abdomen are barely able to be identified to put them back where they belong (Harborview is my place of work). 10-20 can be killed in less than one minute. Children in Japan have training to get under their desks to survive an earthquake. Children in Edmonds have training to keep them from being executed with a gun. Sad, not funny.

  11. There have been mass killing events with a knife that rival those with a gun. On any given weekend there are dozens of people shot in Chicago I here it on the news 30 people shot 5 dead 50 people shot 7 dead being shot is not necessarily a death sentence. I can agree the wounds can be horrific from a gun but I am sure you know wounds with a knife can be equally horrific. Does not having a gun stop a person from from trying to hurt someone else? Does it reduce the number of people hurt or killed probably but it doesn’t stop them. The number one reason for teenager death are cars, should we ban those suicide and homicide rank 2nd drug overdoses make up for a lot too. The gun is just one of many reasons for death. We are soft on drugs we don’t put greater restrictions on driving mental health problems in children is greater than than it has ever been but the gun is the problem? I don’t want kids to feel like they need to arm themselves that is what we need to change.

  12. “There have been mass killing events with a knife that rival those with a gun.” Really! When Brutus and his fellow senators murdered Julius Caesar? When the barbarian horde attacked Byzantium? Get real, Jim. No single person or group with knife or knives could come close to the carnage as the same number with guns. Otherwise, the US Cavalry would never have “won” the west. Stop trying to defend the inordinate number and deadliness of firearms in this country. The gun lobby already has enough apologists offering up thoughts and prayers.

    1. A quick search would indicate many, I won’t list them for you. Lots to choose from. All around the world. The biggest one I could find was from China a group of people killed like a 130 and injured about the same. A guy from Canada killed 10 and hurt others comes to mind. How about suicide bombs look at the stories for those around the world. People with bad intentions will find a way. A 19 year old illegal immigrant in New York just shot. 2 cops yesterday 16 year old killed woman in parking lot in shoreline. Do you think these people got the gun from their parents. Illegal guns are as plentiful as drugs but you still insist it is the legal gun owners that are the problem.

  13. Once again you miss the point. I am not sure if illegal guns are as plentiful as drugs. I don’t think you know either. There are too many illegal drugs and too many illegal guns in the country. Perhaps that is what you wanted to say. If so, then we agree.
    Of the legal gun owners with whom you claim I have a problem, I do not. Of course there are qualifications. I do not believe they should own military-style weapons or large ammunition clips. I would want them to own the firearm after a federally monitored background check. If their behavior draws a red flag by a judge, then I would expect them to surrender their firearms.
    Search the internet as much as you want, guns are a graver threat to life than knives. There is no need to be a rocket scientist to know that both can kill.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Real first and last names — as well as city of residence — are required for all commenters.
This is so we can verify your identity before approving your comment.

By commenting here you agree to abide by our Code of Conduct. Please read our code at the bottom of this page before commenting.