School districts in Texas have reported much fewer weapons incidents over the last six years, a drop officials are attributing to better safety measures and heightened awareness about violence.
Districts recorded 798 weapons incidents during the 2011-12 school year, The Dallas Morning News reported (http://dallasne.ws/YtRaKn ) on Monday. That's a decline from 1,219 reported incidents in 2005-06.
School districts are required to report any time a student was removed from the classroom for at least one day due to a weapons incident.
There was a slight decrease from last year to this year, although firearm incidents increased from 113 to 123. Weapons are reported in four categories: firearms, illegal knives, clubs, and banned weapons like brass knuckles and explosives.
Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told the newspaper that districts have more metal detectors, armed security and improved safety measures overall.
"Districts are taking a proactive approach to safety measures, thus leading to reductions in the number of illegal weapons," said Ratcliffe, who cautioned that the agency hadn't extensively researched the numbers.
Gary Hodges, deputy police chief for the Dallas Independent School District, said that besides preventative measures, students are speaking out more when they see classmates with weapons.
"What we're seeing is students turning in students," Hodges told the newspaper. "They don't want these weapons on campuses. They want to be in a safe environment, too."
But Kenneth Trump, a Cleveland-based school safety consultant, said that while the numbers could be the result of better safety measures, they could also be a product of students and staff reporting fewer incidents for lack of interest or other reasons.
"When numbers go down substantially, the question is always, 'Is there a decrease in actual incidents or a decrease in reporting?'" Trump said.
The December massacre at a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 children dead has led to more discussion about ways to stop school violence. Some school districts in Texas are considering letting teachers or certain officials carry concealed weapons during school hours, a suggestion made by Gov. Rick Perry and others.
Dallas ISD officials are considering $4.65 million in new security measures that would include more cameras, card readers and door buzzers on school buildings.
In the Dallas suburb of Lewisville, district officials met last month with more than 20 police and fire chiefs who serve areas within district boundaries.