Breakdown of number of weapons found in local schools

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Monday morning around 7:30, police say two female students at Hanes Magnet School entered a bathroom while one of them was armed with a small pocket knife. The students began to fight when one of them took out the knife and cut and stabbed the other.

“The one child received some cuts and some puncture wounds to her head,” said Lt. Mike Weaver, of the Winston-Salem Police Department.

The student wielding the knife also cut herself by accident. Both of the students were taken to the hospital, treated and released.

In the 2014-2015 school year, there were 125 weapons found on Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools grounds, as well as four firearms. That number is up from 82 weapons and two firearms found in the 2013-2014 school year.

“It doesn’t follow necessarily patterns, it’s just something that happens, school are a reflection of their communities,” said Theo Helm, Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools chief of staff.

However, that jump is a bit misleading. In the 2012-2013 school year, the number of weapons found was once again 125, with eight firearms found. In the 2011-2012 school year, that number was even higher, with 141 weapons and one firearm found. The highest number from this decade belongs to the 2010-2011 school year when 181 weapons and two firearms were found.

“Bladed weapons are the majority of what we locate at schools,” said Weaver, who is the supervisor of school resource officers for the Winston-Salem Police Department.

“The presence of a weapon is brought to our attention in a variety of ways,” he said. “We find out from students, we find out from school teachers, administrators, other parents, anonymous tips.”

Weaver added that they follow up on each of the tips, considering them to be “very serious. Any time there’s the thought or the information suggests there’s a weapon on campus, we do everything we can to ease that concern.”

“Very seldom do they say, ‘I brought it for self-defense.’ A lot of times it’s completely accidental,” he said. “For example, we’ve had times when a young male might go out with a Boy Scout troop over the weekend, puts a little pocket knife in his backpack, gets home, either he forgets to take it out or the parents forget to take it out. He goes to school, takes out a book and it falls onto the floor.”

“We’re fortunate, there were a couple injuries but nothing serious,” Helm said, of Monday’s incident, adding “something like that is completely unacceptable, and we’ll follow our discipline procedures with the student with the blade.”

Helm went on to say that last year’s rise in weapons being found on their school grounds “could be more kids bringing weapons to schools, unfortunately. It could be that we do a better job of policing it, encouraging people to report it.”

The encouragement to report is something Weaver also brought up in conversation.

“There’s no doubt that violence in schools is escalating through the country. We all see the news, we’re all aware of these tragedies. So, there is an awareness to it,” he said.

The school system has been working with students and parents, encouraging them to be more aware and building trust between students and staff.

“It’s built on relationships we have with students, that the students if they hear something, or know something, or see something, they feel comfortable coming forward to some adult in the school,” Helm said.

Weaver added that the police department works closely with the school system in preventing and reacting to weapons in schools.

“The Winston-Salem Police Department SRO’s are trained and they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.

The girl who had the knife on Monday was issued secure custody and taken to a juvenile detention facility, which is the juvenile equivalent of an arrest. The girl who was stabbed will have petitions sought against her, charging her with affray since it appears they mutually agreed to fight, Weaver said.

The 2014-2015 figure of 125 weapons found on school grounds at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools places them at 6th on the list of highest weapons found in public schools statewide that year.  Wake County Schools reported 327 weapons found in their schools during that timeframe, followed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools at 315, Guilford County Schools at 164, Cumberland County Schools at 148 and Durham Public Schools at 132.

In the 2014-2015 school year, there were 70 weapons found on Alamance-Burlington Schools grounds, with Davidson County Schools reporting 46, Rockingham County Schools reporting 40, Wilkes County Schools reporting 24, Davie and Surry County Schools reporting 15, Yadkin County Schools reporting 10 and Stokes County Schools reporting nine.

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