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Duval County School Board works with students to keep guns out of schools

Duval County reports 9 gun-in-school incidents with 9 arrests this school year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Duval County school leaders shared the work they've done and the work ahead to combat recent problems with students bringing guns to local schools during Tuesday night's school board meeting. 

Dozens of parents attended to learn about the plan to ensure students' safety and hear from Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti. 

So far this school year, there have been eight guns and one starter pistol, found at Duval County schools, according to district officials.

To prevent that number from rising, board members met with eight groups of students at the eight schools where firearms were found to make sure that the students know the district has a zero-tolerance policy on weapons of any kind on campus and lay out actions that will be taking placing.

"I think it's important not to shy away from the conversation, but to talk transparently about where we are, where we were and where we're going in order to address this important issue," Vitti said. "Forty-two percent of teenagers report that it is easy to find a gun." 

While meeting with the school board, students voiced that they wanted to see more police officers during school hours, hear from community leaders before an incident happens and have more meaningful after-school programs.

Vitti agreed, saying the school board will be increasing random searches at schools with higher incidents and expanding city and outside resources at schools where there's a lack of student activities. 

The school district said it's also working on a new tip line so students can call in any reports of guns in schools.

But ultimately, Vitti said, the best metal detectors are the students and parents.

"I think he has a good plan. I think that he gets involved and really touches on the issues. I think the hotline is a good idea. I think getting more activity for the kids is also a key. So I think those are two things that can help alleviate some of the violence," parent Sabrina Wynn said.

Vitti also addressed why students bring guns to school. He said some students do it for "show and tell," as an attempt to look tough, because they feeling unsafe coming to and from school or because they're involved in illegal activity. 

Before the meeting began, school board member Lori Hershey told News4Jax that she hopes they can find a way to make Jacksonville schools safer.

"It is upsetting, and it's startling, and I can assure you every board member is very concerned about this issue," Hershey, who represents a district that covers much of southeast Jacksonville, said. "I believe it's important for our community to recognize the fact that this burden of guns in schools is something that needs to be shouldered by our whole community. This is not solely a school issue. This is a community issue and we should be very concerned."

Board member Scott Shine agreed, saying it is not just a school district issue, but a Jacksonville issue.