Experts: Speaking up could prevent school shooting tragedy

After rash of guns at schools, could a school shooting happen in Duval County?


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County schools have encountered 29 incidents involving guns over the past two years, but the Jacksonville area hasn't endured a student shooting.

Students being willing to speak up about what they may see or hear could be making the difference, according to local experts.

"When I hear about a school shooting, the first thing I think about is safety," said News4Jax crime and safety analyst Gil Smith. "How did the gun get there? And how were students protected?"

Smith spent six years as a school resource officer in Duval County.

IMAGES: Mug shots of arrests in latest gun-at-school incidents
CHART: Gun-at-school incidents since October 2012

He believes local schools want to protect students and staff -- and that many people have learned an important lesson: speaking up is crucial after someone gives any indication of disturbing behavior.

"In every school shooting, it is preplanned," Smith said. "The student never wakes up and decides that day, 'I'm going to go to school and do a shooting.' It is always preplanned. And in most cases, they let someone know ... verbally or through social media. They let at least one person know what they're planning to do."

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said has seen a rash of guns in schools in his district and told News4Jax even one weapon is too many.

"What we need is mental detectors," Vitti said. "And what I mean by that is when a child has the pure intent to do harm to other children, a metal detector is not going to stop them."

Gun violence in schools is a tough issue to solve, but Vitti agreed with Smith that a culture of communicating can prevent tragedy on campus.

"I think on the positive front, what's happened, at least over the past couple of weeks, is that students have stepped forward to indicate their friends have brought guns to schools," Vitti said. "In order to create an environment where we never have a weapon coming into school, we have to have greater commitment on the part of parents, guardians, and the community in general."

Vitti said the district has a zero-tolerance policy for guns in schools. 

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