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Address the problem of weapons at schools

Dear Editor:

I am writing to you today about a topic that should be of great concern to all residents in Clayton County. Whether or not you have children enrolled in a Clayton County school, this is of grave importance – as it has the potential to greatly impact the future of our community.

Over the past two weeks, Clayton County Public Schools has dealt with several incidents concerning weapons that have been brought onto school property by our students. In doing this, these students have violated the district’s Student Code of Conduct and the laws of Clayton County and the State of Georgia. This must stop!

It is important for you to understand that weapons of any type WILL NOT be tolerated in our schools, on our campuses, at our school bus stops or at any school district sponsored function. It doesn’t matter if the weapon is real or a toy. It doesn’t matter if the weapon is loaded or not. It doesn’t matter if this is a first rule infraction by a student. Those who bring a weapon to school WILL BE disciplined and, as appropriate, prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

Our primary purpose is the educational instruction of our children. The culture and climate of our District should be warm, inviting and safe for ALL students and employees and provide an atmosphere that is conducive to academic achievement. We must be willing to do whatever is necessary to ensure that our campuses are nonviolent learning environments and that our bus stops are secure zones that allow our students to travel to school and back home knowing that they are protected.

We need the help of our students, their parents/guardians, and our community to make this happen. We urge you to bring anything you hear about a weapon on school property or any potential for weapons on school property to the attention of the school’s principal, the school’s SRO, or the Clayton County Schools Police. You can also send an anonymous tip through iWatch. Please remember: If you see or hear something, say something.

Working together, we can provide a safe place to learn, a safe place to work, and a safe place to grow for everyone. Let’s make sure that great things continue to happen in Clayton County Public Schools.

Luvenia W. Jackson

Interim Superintendent

More from Judge Teske

Dear Editor:

In support of the interim superintendent’s open letter, I am writing to educate students, parents, and the citizens in general about weapons brought to school campus. I also want to make clear that the recent events of the last two weeks described in Ms. Jackson’s open letter are not common, but when they do occur, immediate steps must be taken to protect everyone on campus.

The law makes it a crime to bring a gun, taser or stun gun, knife, straight edge razor, box cutter knife, throwing star, nun chuck, fighting chains, bat, club, or any other weapon that can be used to bludgeon another. What most students do not know is that bringing a gun to school carries a penalty of up 18 months in a Youth Development Campus (YDC). Let’s not fool each other—an YDC is a youth prison with a razor wire fence around it. The same can happen if a student brings to school any of the other weapons mentioned to use in an assault.

Ms. Jackson and I, along with our current chief of police, Greg Porter (then the head of the School Resource Officer Unit), got together in 2003 to develop the first agreement of its kind in this country to reduce the arrests of minor school offenses. School arrests have declined by 83%. This allowed school police to shift their focus to engaging students using positive strategies, which in turn has caused students to open up and share confidentially when they hear about a weapon about to be brought to school. This has led to a 70% reduction of these serious weapons, including guns, on school campus. This approach makes schools safer.

What we have achieved in Clayton has been replicated in many States with 16 more jurisdictions applying this year to adopt our model through the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.

We must work together to keep these weapons out of the hands of our children and the schools, and that includes our parents and the entire community. The schools do not hand our weapons—they are brought in from the outside. A gun on campus means a disconnect somewhere else.

Some of these students bring the guns from home—others likely stolen, but secreted at home. Parents—the Fourth Amendment right against unreasonable searches and seizures do not apply to you when it involves your child. Your child does not have a right to privacy in YOUR home. Be diligent, be nosy, be loving—look around, get into their business!

If you are concerned your child is on the pathway to delinquency, there are many services in our community that can assist. We have a System of Care that manages community services—call us for help. We want to keep kids in school and out of the courts!

Steven C Teske, Chief Judge

Clayton County Juvenile Court