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Leon County Schools focusing on safety after an increase in on-campus guns

Posted at 6:59 PM, Oct 05, 2021

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — Expect to see safety changes in Leon County Schools soon.

Leon County Schools Chief of Safety & Security John Hunkiar says only eight weeks into the school year, LCS has responded to six guns on campus, two knives, and a pair of brass knuckles.

Those finds are now prompting review from the safety and security team, the Leon County Sheriff's Office School Resource division, and State Attorney Jack Campbell.

"It's not a number that we're happy about but we're doing everything we can to keep our schools safe," said Hunkiar.

LCS and the Sheriff's Office met behind closed doors Monday to brainstorm a course of action. The conversation exploring ideas such as how students are getting the weapons.

"Information that we've had say most likely these firearms are obtained through car burglaries where vehicles are left unlocked. People are not properly securing their weapons, but we don't know that definitively," said Hunkiar.

The meeting also delved into how to prevent more guns from making it to campus.

"We want the School Resource Deputies to get in front of high school students and have these conversations directly as opposed to the district pumping out information," he said.

The team believes more one-on-one conversations with law enforcement will help deter them from bringing weapons.

LCS parent Anthony DeMarco says he wants to see the two groups branch out and work beside other community organizations such as Kevin Warren with the LIFE Center and Whitfield Leland with the Community Roundtable.

"People come to them. They're able to get inside a community, assess what's really going on, address what the problem really is, and solve it," said DeMarco.

DeMarco believes what's most important is an effective intervention that doesn't negatively impact a student's future.

Bringing a gun on a school campus is a felony offense, and students are no exception. At Leon County Schools, that's also grounds for expulsion.

"A felony situation is just stopping any forward progress for that student," said DeMarco.

Leon County Schools does have measures in place to make sure safety is a priority.

LCS has two full-time school safety analysts. The 24-hour safety center monitors suspicious activity throughout the school district's network, whether it's self-harm or threats, or conversations about weapons. The 24-hour hotline also shields any tips.

Hunkiar says those resources have allowed them to catch the weapons before tragedy strikes.

"The success of people providing us tips is why we've recovered so many," he said.

There are also metal detectors inside the schools.

"Most people visualize metal detectors like the airport. In many facilities, that's not optimal based on how it's laid out and the ability to get everyone in and out on campus, as well as the many events after school."

School staff may also step in if they suspect weapons are in the classroom.

"Our administrators have the ability to search under reasonable suspicion standards, which is a little different than law enforcement in terms of probable cause. Because of the dire need to keep our schools safe, the laws permit our administrators to have a wider reach," said Hunkiar.

Hunkiar says one of the most crucial factors is making sure the community is working with them.

"There is a nationwide campaign for 'See something, say something.' We want to up that a little bit. Our slogan here is 'See something, hear something, say something'."

Hunkiar will present finalized findings and plans to address school safety at the October 12 school board meeting along with a report from the Sheriff's Office.

You can report anything suspicious to LCS by calling 850- 922-TIPS