There were 32 instances in which students were punished for bringing a weapon to school in the Bend-La Pine district this past academic year, including one in which a gun was brought onto the Summit High School campus.
The Summit incident was one of two gun violations this past year, with the other occurring when a Bend High student killed himself with a rifle inside a classroom.
The list of the violations was requested by The Bulletin.
The majority of them were for knives or pocketknives, though students were also disciplined for bringing box cutters and ammunition to school. No guns were brought to schools the previous academic year, and the district said the total number of violations this year was typical. The violations were not limited to high schools as students in middle and elementary schools also brought weapons onto school campuses.
According to Sal Cassaro, director of secondary programs, the Summit gun was never brought into the school building but was left inside a car parked on campus.
“It was a kid who was showing off the gun, but had no malice or intent to bring it inside or bully,” Cassaro said. “There was a person driving the car, another passenger and the student who had the weapon. It made it onto the parking lot but stayed there.”
A few days after the gun had been on campus, a student heard discussion about it and reported it to administrators. The three Summit students were interviewed and admitted bringing the gun on campus a few days prior. The student who brought the gun was expelled, while the other two faced expulsion before leaving the district.
For students who brought knives to school, a policy signed into state law last summer allows the district to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the incident before deciding on a punishment. Previously, the state had a mandatory expulsion policy for any item brought to school deemed dangerous, which could include something like a small pocketknife or even a sharpened pencil held out in a threat.
“Before there was a knee-jerk reaction and we would expel students,” Cassaro said. “Now we’re able to look at the big picture and make sure we do interventions. We can take the whole kid into account before expulsion is considered.”
Expulsion, however, doesn’t mean a student is forced out of the school system entirely. In Bend-La Pine Schools, students who are expelled can enroll full time in an alternative program run by the district although they are not allowed in the their home school or the district’s other traditional schools.
Under the revised mandatory expulsion policy, many students who brought knives were not expelled, Cassaro said, though the penalty is often proportional to the size of the blade.
“If it’s greater than 2.5 inches, we take that far more seriously,” he said. “A lot of the incidents are Swiss army knives, and kids just forgot they had those. We’re not saying it’s OK, but we’re going to take intent into account.”
Despite the leeway granted to districts this school year, firearms and explosives still result in mandatory expulsions.
— Reporter: 541-633-2160, firstname.lastname@example.org