BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - It’s a scary situation that has become all too common. As weapons show up in schools more frequently across the country, the 9News Investigators have learned 1,833 weapon-related incidents were reported in schools across Louisiana in 2018.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter uncovered the numbers through a public records request with the Louisiana Department of Education. He asked some parents at the carpool line if the information is surprising.
"Yes, it is very surprising,” said Andrea Ennis, a father.
Parents say one weapon found in schools is too many, but what WAFB found, they believe is unreal.
“It’s surprising and it makes me scared,” said grandmother, Margie Lee. “I'm just frightened to even know that."
Out of the 1,833 incidents reported in Louisiana schools in 2018, 779 involved firearms not prohibited by federal law or knives greater than or equal to 2.5″ and 678 of them involved weapons that were thrown in an effort to injure others. Another 227 were with knives less than 2.5″, while 131 were committed with weapons prohibited by federal law and 18 were with weapons that were illegally carried and discharged at school.
Some parents say the sobering numbers provide perspective on the severity of the problem and point out just how vulnerable their kids are on campuses statewide.
"As a concerned parent, I just pray every day that when my son goes to school he comes back alive,” said Andrea Ennis.
Ennis believes the most troubling part is the numbers WAFB uncovered only show the incidents that were actually reported to the state by each individual school system.
"I'm pretty sure that there's more,” said Ennis.
Based on the numbers from the state, the school district with the most reported weapon-related incidents is East Baton Rouge Parish. In 2018, the district racked up 120 cases alone. EBR is the second largest school district in the state. The largest is Jefferson Parish, which had 112 reported incidents.
Here’s a breakdown of the five school districts with the highest number of reported weapon-related incidents in 2018.
Here’s a breakdown of the reported weapon-related incidents in the WAFB viewing area in 2018.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter asked Stephen Aguillard, clinical service director with Capital Area Human Services, what motivates children to bring weapons into schools.
“Bullying and fear of being bullied is the number one reason kids are bringing weapons to school,” said Aguillard.
Aguillard says it’s hard to know for sure if a child is being bullied, but it’s important to look for the warning signs to keep them from turning to weapons.
"One out of five kids that attend school is being bullied, and so they’re bringing a weapon so they can feel more comfortable and able to defend themselves,” said Aguillard.
The licensed counselor believes it’s vital parents talk to their kids and ask open-ended questions to really allow an opportunity for students to explore their feelings.
“You have to ask them questions. Most parents, the number one question they ask when a kid comes home from school is, ‘How was school?’” Aguillard said. “The number one answer is ‘fine.' What did you learn about that kid in school that day? Nothing.”
After asking the right questions and getting children to open up, Aguillard says what a parent does next is crucial.
"When the child starts talking you want to be quiet and listen to what they're saying so they feel like they're going to be heard,” said Aguillard.
Aguillard also suggests parents regularly check their kids’ bag, rooms, and even social media accounts to monitor what’s going on. He says it could even be a good idea to keep track of any weapons inside the home.
"You should do a sweep of your own house if you've got weapons to make sure that your weapons are locked up and that they're not missing,” he added.
Some parents tell WAFB it’s something to think about and they will do whatever they can to make sure their kids are safe from what’s concealed inside classrooms statewide.
"Everything has to start at the house first,” said Ennis.
"I'm scared for them, you know, but all I can do is just pray for them,” Lee added.
WAFB’s Scottie Hunter reached out to the East Baton Rouge Parish School System for comment on this report. A spokeswoman for the district says leaders were on fall break, but that they should be available for comment soon.