Gun care starts at home

It is a discussion that needs to start at home.

That is the message from both South Kitsap School District superintendent Dave LaRose and Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Deputy Scott Wilson. They leave it to the parents to curtail students from bringing guns to schools.

A 15-year-old John Sedgwick Junior High student was arrested March 22 for bringing a gun to school after a fellow student reported seeing him “brandish” it. Authorities have not released the name of the student, because of his age.

The weapon, which LaRose said was owned by a family member, was unloaded. He was convicted March 28 of second-degree unlawful possession of a firearm, a felony, and possession of a weapon on school facilities, a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to 12-months of community service.

That gun-in-school incident followed a Feb. 22 shooting where a .45 cal semi-automatic pistol “accidentally” fired a single round from the backpack of a third-grader at Bremerton’s Armin Jahr Elementary School into a classmate that was critically injured. Amina Kocer-Bowman this week returned to Bremerton after numerous surgeries related to the bullet next to her spine. She has not yet recovered from the wound weeks after the shooting.

The mother of the boy responsible and her boyfriend were charged with felonies for their connection in the accidental shooting of Amina. The boy, a former classmate of Amina’s, was sentenced to probation and therapy.

Wilson said parents need to educate their children on the ramifications of bringing a weapon to school.

“It really begins at home,” he said. “It begins with the parents holding children accountable for their actions.”

LaRose agreed.

“It’s the power of that conversation at the dinner table,” he said. “As they get older, kids need to understand the magnitude of their decisions.”

And if that involves bringing a weapon to school, LaRose said the response will be “swift and quick.”

“You will be arrested,” LaRose said. “You will be emergency expelled. That could potentially impact the rest of your life.”

Wilson said local school districts and law enforcement do a good job of communicating that message to children.

“That point is hammered home and emphasized over and over again. There’s always going to be those folks, for whatever reason, who will not comply,” Wilson said of students that would bring a gun to school.

In those situations, LaRose said he leans on the district’s Whole Child concept. The aim of Whole Child is to make each student feel safe, healthy, cared for and supported, engaged and connected, and challenged.

“We try and create an environment where kids trust adults,” he said.

LaRose said situation at John Sedgwick, where a 10mm semi-automatic

handgun was retrieved out of the student’s backpack, was an example of that working well.

Based on information released by the Kitsap County Sheriff’s Department, the school resource officer was notified by a parent that a student had witnessed a peer brandish a firearm.

“The kids did the right thing,” LaRose said. “We were able to intervene very quickly.”

LaRose, who succeeded Bev Cheney as superintendent in 2008, said he believes this is the first time in his tenure that a student has been caught with a firearm at school.

He said SKSD has upcoming events that address topics such as Internet safety and bullying, but firearms and weapons will continue to be addressed with students.

“What this affirms is that education and communication is something we need to continue to be diligent about,” LaRose said. “If it has the potential to put others in danger, you will be expelled. Those behaviors have not and will not be tolerated. I think everyone accepts that.”

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