SAN ANTONIO - Last April when Brendan Tarwater brought an AK-47 and two handguns to James Madison Highschool, it was a potential nightmare in the making. Instead quick thinking by Tarwater's parents and educators thwarted the threat.
In the end, the 17-year-old sophomore's arrest and expulsion simply became a highly publicized case of school safety and discipline.
One Northeast Independent School District continues to address.
"We have spent the entire summer going over that incident and putting precautions and additional safety measures in place," said Aubrey Chancelllor the Public Information Officer for Northeast ISD.
Turns out the Tarwater incident was not an isolated case.
Reviewing school discipline reports News 4 Trouble Shooters uncovered nine firearm incidents in schools across San Antonio last year.
The reports also show 28 cases of illegal knives and 26 more students disciplined for prohibited weapons like pepper spay and nunchucks.
Those weapon numbers come from annual reports called PEMIS Student Disciplinary Action Incident summaries. Every school district is required to turn that data over to the Texas Education Agency and earlier this summer
News 4 Trouble Shooters filed an open records request to get last years summaries. After reviewing those reports, plus discipline data from the past two academic years, the Trouble Shooters found 195 students disciplined for weapons. All told there were 17 gun incidents and 70 students disciplined for illegal knives.
Those numbers may sound alarming to parents, but educators across the metro urge caution, pointing out that San Antonio area schools are populated by close to 400-thousand kids.
Meaning fewer than one in every two thousand students gets in trouble for weapons.
While the Texas Education Agency doesn't use discipline data to regulate schools local district officials tell news 4 they regularly review the reports.
"We look for trends," said Steve Lipscomb the Public Information Officer for the Judson Independent School District. "We want to track their behaviors so that we can adjust our policies."
"With this knowledge we know that we can do better and we know how to improve safety," says Chancellor referring to how Northeast ISD employs the data.
One discipline trend on the rise in area schools according to the data uncovered by News4 is kids getting punished for indecent and lewd acts.
There were 74 cases last school year compared to 70 the previous two years combined.
According to Leslie Price, Public Information Officer for the San Antonio Independent School District, many of those incidents in her district are nothing more than pranks.
"Students dropping trouser and mooning someone," said Price.
But educators are also seeing in another type spike of lewd and indecent act which involves teens sexting on cell phones.
And some districts could change policies for student use of technology are a result.
"We'll look at that and see what needs to be done," said Lipscomb.
School discipline reports also indicate another area of concern, students physically assaulting district employees, including teachers, aids, counselors and district police.
There were 151 cases last year, but officials say the reported numbers often look worse than the actual incidents.
"Most of the time it's not intentional," said Price. "It happens when an adult intervenes in a situation to usually quiet it down and may inadvertently get hit in some way."
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