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Vitti responds after 3 gun incidents in 1 day

Superintendent says principals will tell parents if weapon found at school

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After police said they caught three students with guns at three different Duval County schools on Wednesday, Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti said parents need to be more involved.

Two of the arrests were at high schools -- First Coast and Ed White -- and one was at an elementary school – Chaffee Trail.

Vitti said its an unfortunate reality that weapons are in schools, but that one weapon is one too many.

He said parents need to be better at monitoring access to weapons, whether that's at home or in the neighborhood, and they need to be aware of who their children are spending time with.

So far in the 2016-17 school year, there have been nine incidents involving guns being brought to school, resulting in nine arrests.

Seven of those incidents involved students, one involved a teacher and one was parent who was parked on school property.

First Coast High has had more issues than any other school this year with five total arrests being made for incidents involving weapons on school property.

“Last year, you had the bomb threats. Even though that was a prank, still that was a concern,” First Coast High parent Shay Green said. “Now it's the guns and it's knives. Eventually, something needs to be done.”

Green is one of many parents on edge after the recent spike in student arrests for bringing weapons to schools.

“Whether we're talking about one or 10, one is too many, because we know that something tragic could happen at any point when I weapon is in a school,” Vitti said.

Vitti wants parents to know that he has been clear with principals that if any weapons are found on school property, parents must immediately be notified.

“I think that's important to build trust and an openness and a level of transparency,” Vitti said. “There's always a possible thought process of, 'Well, no one was hurt. People don't need to know about it. It was harmless. The student accidentally put a knife in their bag.' Every situation, I've been very clear and firm that we're going to tell parents.”

Vitti said if there is anything that gives him a bit of peace in all of this it’s that the district has no evidence that any of the weapons found this school year were planned to be used to harm anyone.

He said it will take a team effort from administration, staff, police and parents to keep guns out of schools. He said the district plans to expand its parent academy classes to help.

“I'll be quite blunt and direct and say the class is about adults being comfortable being an adult in the child-adult relationship,” Vitti said. “Too many parents are acting like friends to their children and not as the adult and not as the role model, and we need to see more of that.”

Vitti said he also believes socioeconomic status can play a role in these types of incidents, saying job security and unemployment can lead to more crime, which can lead to an increased desire for weapons, making it more likely for a gun to land in a student’s hands.