WORLD US schools struggle to deal with hoax shootings

WORLD

US schools struggle to deal with hoax shootings

China Daily

10:14, October 17, 2022


After a candlelight vigil on Saturday, attendees pay their respects at a memorial for five people killed in a shooting in Raleigh, North Carolina, two days earlier. (Photo: AP)

More and more US schools are confiscating guns from students and having to deal with calls falsely reporting school shootings.

The number of guns found on students in schools during the first two months of this school year has risen compared with the same time in the past two years, says the nonprofit group Gun Violence Archive, which monitors gun activity.

At least 220 guns were seized last month and in August in 35 states, compared with 128 at the same time last year. In the corresponding period in 2019, 132 guns were confiscated. The number of guns found in 2020 is likely to have been lower because it was amid the pandemic, when classes were remote.

At least 15 guns were recovered from schools in Baltimore, Maryland, last year, said Sergeant Clyde Boatwright of the Baltimore City School Police Force. It was higher than in any recent year. This school year the department has recovered two guns. One was used when a high-school student was shot dead outside a school.

The increasing prevalence of guns comes with an increase in what has come to be known as swatting. This is a hoax in which someone calls emergency services and reports a nonexistent crime to get law enforcement officials, generally a SWAT team, to go to an address.

On Wednesday many San Francisco Bay Area high schools received active shooter hoax calls, a day after police in Florida responded to swatting calls at several high schools.

Since early last month about 117 hoaxes have been reported at schools in 17 states and the District of Columbia, said the National Association of School Resource Officers, a nonprofit group for school-based law enforcement professionals.

"These false alarms are far from harmless," said Mo Canady, the associations' executive director. "They also divert limited public safety resources from other community needs and increase anxiety among students and others."

The calls have been made mostly from high schools, but also middle and elementary schools, according to local news reports. Some of the calls are hard to trace because they are made from internet phone numbers, law enforcement experts said.

Rise in cases

In addition to school shooting hoaxes, the number of guns that were fired in schools, including a bullet hitting school property or being brandished during the day, nights or on weekends, rose this year, the nonprofit group K-12 School Shooting Database said.

It found that there were 224 incidents, compared with 182 last year.

At least 43 people have died and 91 have been injured this year as a result of gun violence in schools, including the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, in May, said Everytown for Gun Safety, a group that tracks gun violence.

Since students have returned to school, many have experienced behavioral issues, teachers and school safety officers said.

"We seem to be seeing a lot more issues — with students — around mental health," Canady said.

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