Although the percentage of students who carry weapons to school is lower in Hawaii, the state still has more than twice the national percentage of school firearm incidents. And almost half of Hawaii’s school firearm incidents last year happened at elementary schools.

An “incident” includes events like the one Monday morning at Highlands Intermediate School, when a contraband handgun went off and injured two students. A 14-year-old has been charged with attempted murder.

More often, though, it is simply finding a student in possession of a firearm on campus. The Hawaii Department of Education defines “firearm” broadly to include Airsoft guns, BB guns, pistols, pellet guns, CO2 paintball guns and other explosives.

Nationally, 4.7 percent of schools reported incidents of firearm possession in 2008 (the most recent reported year), compared with 10 percent of Hawaii schools, according to “Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2010,” a report from the National Center for Education Statistics.

Twelve of Hawaii’s 26 incidents last year occurred at elementary schools, according to a 2011 report from the Department of Education to the Legislature. Three occurred at high schools and eight at middle schools.

Despite those scary statistics, the percentage of Hawaii students who reported carrying any weapon to school was lower than the national average: 4.7 percent, compared with 5.6 percent. Still, compared with other ethnic groups nationwide, a much higher percentage of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander students reported carrying weapons to school: 9.8 percent. The next-highest percentage was among Hispanic students: 5.8 percent.

Discipline

Hawaii’s disciplinary measures for firearm possession are harsher than many others nationwide.

The punishment for the Highlands Intermediate student is expulsion for an entire calendar year — the school system’s policy for students caught carrying firearms on campus and at school events. During the 2009-2010 school year, 37 students statewide were expelled for the 26 incidents of firearm possession at school.

Nationally, only 53 percent of schools who caught students with firearms suspended the offenders “for five days or more.” Eighteen percent removed them for the remainder of the school year, and 29 percent transferred them to specialized schools.

Public school students busted for carrying other dangerous weapons like knives are suspended for up to 92 school days, according to Chapter 19 of the Hawaii Administrative Rules.

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