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10-Year-Old Brings Loaded Gun to School Amid Rising School Crime

A Los Angeles fourth-grader brought a stolen 0.40-caliber Glock 22 to his elementary school this week, reflecting a larger problem. As of April 15, there were 903 weapons incidents across L.A. schools.

A 10-year-old fourth-grader brought a loaded handgun to Glassell Park Elementary school on Tuesday, June 4, The Times has learned.

Details about the incident are gradually emerging. In a message to the school community Tuesday evening, Principal Claudia Pelayo reported that "a handgun was found on campus."

No one was injured in the incident.

"We took immediate action, including securing the weapon and notifying the Los Angeles School Police Department and Region West Operations for further investigation," her message continued. "The parents of the impacted student have been notified."

Sources told The Times that a boy brought a loaded .40-caliber Glock 22 to campus and that the gun had been reported stolen. A student who saw the boy show off the gun reported it to an adult, the sources said. The district neither confirmed nor denied those details.

The gun recovery reflects an alarming increase of "weapons incidents" and fights at Los Angeles Unified schools amid demands from many parents for more police and security after the school board slashed the police budget four years ago.

The principal's message said school police would be "on site" on Wednesday "to support the school."

The message did not note any action related to the student other than informing the parents that a gun had been found.

"Our school will continue to follow the District's Discipline Foundation Policy to provide a safe and healthy learning environment for our students," the district statement noted. But no information was provided about the discipline policy or how it applied to this situation.

In a follow-up, a district spokesman provided a link to the parent-student handbook.

The gun manufacturer describes the seized Glock as "by far the most popular police service pistol in the United States," adding that that gun "fires the potent 40 S&W cartridge and holds more rounds for its size and weight than most other full-sized handgun in its class."

Sharp Increase in Weapon Incidents

Incidents involving weapons at L.A. schools have increased sharply since students returned to in-person learning following pandemic-related campus closures that lasted more than a year, starting in March of 2020.

In the 2018-19 school year — before the pandemic — there were 669 weapon "incidents," a drop from the 705 of the previous year, according to district data.

But in 2021-22 these incidents rose to 994 and rose again to 1,197 the following year, a nearly 80 percent increase compared to pre-pandemic levels in a school system with declining enrollment.

This year, through April 15, there were 903 weapons incidents. Since then, incidents have included the May 3 arrests of two students carrying loaded semiautomatic handguns around Northridge Middle School. A Washington Preparatory High School student carrying a weapon shot and killed a student just off campus on April 15.

Also on Tuesday, at the regular meeting of the Board of Education, a delegation of parents submitted a petition with more than 4,000 signatures calling for a restoration of the reduced school-police budget and a return of officers to campus.

In 2020, the school board had voted to cut the school police budget by 30 percent in the wake of the Minneapolis city police killing of George Floyd.

Parents on Tuesday faulted the board for associating the district's own school police to the indefensible actions of a city police force in another part of the country.

A separate group of parents from Clinton Middle School also called for a police presence, asserting in public comments that the district was failing to stop "five to six fights a day" as well as the cellphone filming of these fights — which are then uploaded to social media.

The latest gun seizure does not fit neatly into the ongoing debate over school safety and the role of school police.

L.A. Unified never had officers at elementary schools. Before the cuts, one officer would be permanently stationed at a high school and an officer would split time between two middle schools.

Under current district policy, no officers can enter a campus other than to respond to an emergency, conduct an investigation or make an arrest. A recent attempt to make limited exceptions to this policy fell apart after one day amid finger-pointing over who had authorized the change.

Teachers union President Cecily Myart-Cruz criticized the school board on Tuesday for not sticking by pledges to further reduce the police budget.

Another union leader, Max Arias, who represents the greatest number of non-teaching workers, touted the importance of unarmed campus aides for making schools safe.

Arias also criticized the district for cuts that have reduced the hours for campus aides and, in the process, left these workers with too few hours to qualify for health benefits.

Even when it comes to interpreting the rising number of weapons, there is debate about whether campus police would be a deterrent.

Board member George McKenna has repeatedly said that having an officer on campus helps deter students from bringing weapons to school.

But that's not the view of Joseph Williams, director of Students Deserve, which recruits and assists student activists who call for defunding the police.

When weapons were seized, he said in an interview, "was anyone injured? No. Why? Because some students on that campus trusted adults enough to say, 'Hey, this is going down and we need to address it,' and folks were able to intervene."

The presence of an officer would have diminished that trust, he said, making for a potentially more dangerous situation.

But he also faulted the district for not providing the needed counseling and other non-law-enforcement support needed to make students feel safe.

©2024 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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