Hundreds of schools in Tampa Bay area report weapon incidents

More than two weapons found daily in schools
Posted at 12:27 PM, Aug 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-12 12:27:26-04

When students head back to school, books won't be the only things in their backpacks.

If troubling recent trends continue, plenty will also be carrying guns, knives and other weapons.

We've been combing through the data and uncovered some surprising places where kids are showing up armed on campus.

“We are currently still under a lockdown,” said the recorded message sent out to parents in February.  

Hillsborough High School was on lockdown at the time, while police investigated whether a bullet shattered a window. 

No suspect was arrested and no students were injured.

At Lecanto High School in Citrus County, a freshman pulled out a gun in English class and shot himself in the head.

He survived and no other students were injured, but the school was on lock down for several hours while law enforcement sorted out what happened and made sure no one else was armed on campus.

Police arrested a 15-year-old Wharton High school student for stabbing another student multiple times with a steak knife.

Weapons on campus don't just seem like everyday occurrences -- they are in the Tampa Bay area.

Florida Department of Education data showed 788 weapons were recovered in Tampa Bay area schools during a two year period from 2013-2015, the most recent data available.

That’s an average of 2.2 incidents per day.

285 schools confiscated at least one weapon.

Hillsborough High School had the largest number with 18 during that time period.  

Belleair Elementary school had six weapon incidents, the most for an elementary school.

At W.D. Suggs Middle School in Bradenton, a gun and eight other weapons were reported at school.

“They might just be trying to be cool. We have lots of gangs in Manatee County. That could be an issue as well,” said Laura Langworthy, a Manatee County parent.

Among the weapons listed in police reports were guns, knives, pepper spray, a stun gun and a box cutter.

Students tell police they often brought weapons to school to defend themselves or frighten away attackers.

“We don't want any reporting of weapons being brought onto our campuses, so even one is too many,” said Pinellas County Schools spokesperson Lisa Wolf.

In Pinellas County, school resource officers are on high alert, working with students to identify troubled kids before they bring weapons to school.

“We can't always control what a student brings onto campus, but what we can control is how we respond to it. Our staff are very well trained to know what to do if they suspect a student has a weapon on campus,” Wolf said.

In Hillsborough County, portable metal detectors helped cut the number of guns in schools by half last year.

At Hillsborough High, the number dropped from 3 to 1.

School officials said that some of the weapons incidents reported by schools to the state involved students who attended Hillsborough County Schools, but didn’t all take place on campus.

Other incidents involved charter schools affiliated with the district but not operated by the local school board.

Parents say they won't be taking any chances, making sure their kids know exactly what to do if someone brings a weapon to school.

“We tell them to run. and get as far away from the school as possible. And it's sad that we have to have that talk with 8 year olds,” said Langworthy.