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Parents aren't always told when a gun is found in school

By Michael Schwanke, mschwanke@kwch.com
Published On: Dec 24 2013 07:42:27 AM CST
Updated On: Sep 27 2013 09:39:05 AM CDT
WICHITA, Kan. -

On the bus, in the parking lot, even in school hallways—parents overwhelmingly tell FactFinder 12 they want to know if a gun is found in their child’s school.

“I would want to know immediately,” says father Carl Zachary.

“I would want to know right away...it's our kids,” adds Sally Mathews, mother of two elementary school children.

After two gun incidents in Wichita schools this year, FactFinder 12 wanted to know how districts notify parents.

We spent weeks, requesting data from six area districts looking back over the last 10 years. We requested data from Andover, Augusta, Derby, Goddard, Maize, and Wichita.

In that ten year period there are relatively few incidents.

There were three guns found in Augusta over that last 10 years. Two guns were found in Andover. Wichita, a district with more than 50,000 students, had 20 gun incidents. The other districts told us they had no incidents involving a gun found on school property.

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The table belows shows the number of incidents the district per year in USD 259.

School Year

Number of Incidents

2003/2004

2

2004/2005

3

2005/2006

1

2006/2007

4

2007/2008

2

2008/2009

2

2009/2010

0

2010/2011

3

2011/2012

1

2012/2013

2

Area schools have learned lessons from recent incidents.

Last fall Wichita officials found a gun at East High School. Parents weren’t told about it, at least not by the district. The district says looking back, things would be handled differently.

“I would say probably so,” says Wendy Johnson, director of marketing for Wichita Schools. Months later a gun was found in a student's backpack at Heights High School. Parents were told but teachers weren't. Once again the district says it made a mistake.

“Frankly in the haste to do that, we overlooked a key step and that was sending a message to staff. That was a learning moment,” says Johnson.

The Augusta district also found a gun on campus this school year. Superintendent John Black says he learned a lesson from other districts and an incident involving a threat last year.

The district used Facebook to notify parents hours after the threat was made, but nothing else. Parents were upset how and when they were notified.

“If we don't inform they will become involved through grapevine gossip or asking questions until they get the answers,” says Black.

Black says Augusta notifies the board, staff and parents, and does it as soon as possible now.

Parents we talked to don't see any other option.

“Who wouldn't want to know right away?” asks parent Sally Mathews.

Johnson says the district knows it needs to be open in crisis situations. When asked if she could say with certainty that parents would be notified if another gun is found, Johnson said they will still be handled on an individual basis.

“I think I can say with certainty that if that were to occur we will sit down and say who needs to know, when do they need to know and how do we need to notify them,” says Johnson.

Wichita was the only district not able to provide FactFinder 12 with information regarding who was notified after a gun incident. The district says it doesn’t track that information in its records we requested.

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