Data Shows That 382 Incidents Of Guns In Ohio Schools Reported

By LIZ SIDOTI, Associated Press Writer

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Only 1 percent of the total disciplinary incidents reported last school year represented student behavior that was potentially threatening to teachers and other students, the Ohio Department of Education said Wednesday.

Possessing guns and other weapons made up just 0.1 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively, of all disciplines that Ohio's primary and secondary schools handed out. Punishments ranged from expulsion to attending a Saturday school.

During the 2000-01 school year, 382 incidents of students possessing guns in schools were reported, while the number of reported incidents of students possessing other weapons totaled 3,527, according to an analysis of Department of Education data released Tuesday.

Donna Kagy, a department spokeswoman, warned Wednesday that the data could be misleading because the state relies on school districts to accurately report it.

"We don't know for sure if there was actually that many guns in schools," Kagy said. "We don't have any idea how many times mistakes might have happened in the reporting and not corrected."

She said a "gun" could have been a rubber-band gun, or a paintball gun or something other than an actual weapon that school officials initially thought to be a gun.

"Once they had the disciplinary hearing, they might have determined that what they thought was a gun, wasn't in fact a gun, but then forgot to go back and change the data," Kagy said.

Of the 382 punishments handed down for having guns in schools, 42 were expulsions, 298 were out-of-school suspensions, 10 were in-school suspensions, 29 were some kind of an alternative punishment and 3 were Saturday school assignments, according to the analysis.

It also showed that of the 3,527 reported incidents of other weapons in schools, 511 were expulsions, 2,365 were out-of-school suspensions, 311 were in-school suspensions, 316 were some kind of an alternative punishment and 24 were Saturday school assignments.

In all, one in five students in Ohio's public elementary and secondary schools were disciplined for breaking school rules last academic year.

Kagy said a majority of the disciplinary incidents reported were for behavioral problems that disturb the learning environment, such as passing notes or talking to other students in class.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)