A student at Patrick Henry High School brought a gun and ammunition to the school earlier this week, prompting Minneapolis school leaders to say Wednesday that they are taking a stand against violence in the schools.
The .38-caliber weapon was discovered in the student’s locker Monday after another student reported overhearing the 16-year-old telling others that he had a gun in his locker and was “going to shoot someone with it after class,” according to police records.
The district declined to say anything else about the incident, but noted no students were harmed.
The gun and recent fights at the campus prompted Minneapolis district officials to launch a campaign aimed at ensuring schools are free of weapons, gang activity and violence. District officials said they will remind students that they can report suspicious activity through a tip line and try to get community members more involved in the schools.
“We are taking a stand today to address these symptoms and the violence in our schools before it starts,” Interim Superintendent Michael Goar said at a news conference. “We are literally putting a stake in the ground and saying loud and clear, not in our schools.”
The announcement came a week after St. Paul Public Schools officials held a similar news conference when a student brought a loaded gun to Harding High School. Both districts have been working to reduce suspensions in their schools. This year, Minneapolis also significantly reduced the number of cops in its schools, known as school resources officers (SROs).
No representatives from the Minneapolis Police Department were present at the event.
Goar said the district’s data does not show an uptick in violence, but noted they are “seeing levels of activity we have not seen before,” such as suspicious cars picking students up after school.
Police have been called to the Patrick Henry High at least 10 times since the start of the school year, including once when a series of fights broke out on school property and several blocks away.
School staff “intervened” last week after a juvenile student started yelling profanities and threatening staff members in a hallway, causing some teachers to “lock their doors out of fear,” according to an incident report. Police weren’t called until after the student had been escorted to the main office.
Another time, a 14-year-old was “viciously” beaten by another student, before the fight was broken up by staff, an incident report said. School officials didn’t report the incident to police, who learned of the assault after the victim’s mother stumbled on an online video of the beating.
“That’s symptomatic of the larger issues going on in the city, and we want to make sure we call upon the city to do more,” Goar said.
The district says it will work with community organizations, such as the Urban League, the Youth Coordinating Board, Northside Achievement Zone and Generation Next, to “engage students.”
But Minneapolis police union officials have said the district needs more school resource officers to stifle growing safety concerns.
They point to the need to quickly address drug- and gang-related violence that sometimes seeps into the classroom. Officers already stationed in the school are better equipped to handle such violence, given their familiarity with the students, they said.
The topic of police in schools has been in the national spotlight since a video surfaced online last week of a South Carolina police officer violently pulling a high school student out of her chair. The officer was fired this week and federal authorities — including the Justice Department and the FBI — have promised to investigate the incident.
Last year, the Minneapolis district reduced the number of SROs, in part, to cut off the so-called “school-to-prison pipeline” that critics say pushes kids into the court system.
“If they want to avert that pipeline to prison, they want to have SROs and part-time officers who actually care in there,” said Lt. Robert Kroll, head of the Minneapolis police union.
The district used to employ 23 full-time SROs and off-duty cops. Now, the district has 16 SROs.
Goar said the district is focused on involving the community, but it may consider additional SROs if needed.
“We are concerned about kids before school and after school,” Goar said. “SROs themselves are not going to solve those problems once the kids leave.”