Safety questions raised after 15-year-old stabbed at Lake Shore Middle

Data shows stabbing among many violent incidents at school in recent years

By Elizabeth Campbell - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - There was concern among parents and students as they returned to Lake Shore Middle School on Jacksonville's Westside Wednesday, the day after a student was stabbed.

Many are asking why and how it happened, and what is the Duval County school district doing to prevent more incidents like it from happening.

According to a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office report obtained by News4Jax, the 15-year-old student was stabbed with a knife by another student on school property during school hours.

A source told I-TEAM investigator Lynnsey Gardner that the two students involved are members of rival gangs, but that has not yet been confirmed by police or the school district. 

"School administrators were alerted to a student who received a stab wound as a result of a physical altercation. The student was immediately transported to receive medical care and school police secured the scene. A student has been detained and law enforcement is actively investigating this situation," Principal Caleb Gottberg said in a robocall notifying parents of the incident. 

READ: Letter sent home with Lake Shore Middle School students

News4Jax talked to eighth-grader Halle King as she was leaving school Wednesday. She said she loves her school, but Tuesday's stabbing does make her nervous.

"I was a little bit (scared). But I was surprised," Halle said. 

Chelsea Foster, Halle's aunt who also attended Lake Shore Middle School, picked her niece up from school. 

"I can't believe it was a knife," Foster said. "Out of all things -- a knife at a middle school."

Stats from the News4Jax archives shows Tuesday's stabbing was one of many violence incident that have happened at the school in recent years. State data found that during the 2015-2016 school year, there were 391 total incidents at Lake Shore Middle School -- nearly 150 more than the previous school year.

The 391 incidents included 167 physical attacks, including four with injuries; 185 incidents involving fighting; one instance of campus disruption; 10 reports of drug use; one bullying report; and two battery incidents. 

Two detectives with Duval County's school police department were seen on school property Wednesday morning. News4Jax crime and safety expert Gil Smith, who’s a former JSO and school resource officer, said there are a large number of gangs on the Westside and, unfortunately, that type of activity can spill over into schools.

"Investigators are here. They’ll write down the names of all the students involved and they keep a database on young people that are involved in gang activity so they would be able to know if their name pops up," Smith said. 

Foster said she doesn't blame the school. Instead, she blames what happens at home. 

Duval County school police are investigating the incident. 

According to a Duval County Public Schools spokesperson, there have been no other incidents involving weapons at Lake Shore Middle School in the last four years. 

The spokesperson said there is a resource officer at every secondary school and there are cameras in the schools. 

When asked whether school employees and resources officers can perform random searches on students, the spokesperson said:

"Per the Student Code of Conduct Schools Administrative Teams and Resource Officers can perform Random Searches, They may search if there is reasonable suspicion.  Most secondary schools have random search procedures and schedules. Here is link to Code of Conduct. You can find the provision on page 5."

News4Jax put in a request in with JSO for any incident or arrest reports at the school's address in the last year. 

According to the JSO crime-mapping tool, within a half-mile of the school in the last month, there have been two assaults, two car break-ins or thefts, four burglaries and one robbery.

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