Student reportedly brought gun to Lawrence High in response to off-campus threat

District calls on families to secure guns after firearm removed from student during lunch


Alex Stark

A police car is parked by Lawrence High School on Thursday afternoon, a day after a firearm was confiscated from a student.

By Daniel Davidson, Online Co-Editor in Chief

Parents need to help students and faculty keep schools safe by securing weapons in the home, Superintendent Anthony Lewis said Thursday in a tweet.

His call to action came a day after a loaded handgun was confiscated without incident from a student at Lawrence High on the first school day back from winter break.

“Our message to students, staff and families has been that if you see or hear something, say something,” Lewis said. “Our children and staff are doing their part. We need the community’s support to help keep all of our children safe.”


Faculty and the Lawrence Police Department confiscated the firearm after receiving a tip from a student, according to a district news release on Wednesday by director of communications Julie Boyle. No threats were made.

Administrators contacted law enforcement at 1:14 p.m. Wednesday, and the first officer arrived on the scene at 1:20 p.m., according to an email sent to The Budget on Thursday by Patrick Compton of the LPD’s public affairs unit.

Students said they saw the classmate removed by security team members and administrators during third lunch. The student resource officer usually assigned to Lawrence High was training at the time of the incident, but another SRO in the district responded shortly after the patrol officer, Compton said. Security guards are employed through the district while SRO’s are also Lawrence police officers.

Junior Joel Rose said he saw security guards approach a student in the corner of the lunchroom but assumed it had to do with drug paraphernalia.

“One of them took his backpack off and told him to start walking toward the front office,” Rose said. “I don’t know if they told him to raise his hands, but he did.”

Although administrators didn’t specify the type of firearm to staff, teachers said they were told during a staff meeting on Wednesday after school that the student had kept the gun in a satchel strung across his chest during the day. According to a tweet by USD 497, the gun was obtained from a “family member’s home.”

This marks the fourth weapon confiscated by administrators in the last two school years — two involving a firearm and one a taser last February. In all cases involving a firearm, a tip from students led to the discovery of the weapon by staff.

“Continue to help us encourage students to report safety concerns to a teacher or another adult at school,” interim Principal Cynthia Johnson said in a letter to LHS families on Wednesday. “Open communication leads to prevention!”

Similar to at least one other firearm incident last year, administrators determined the student’s intent to be self-protection. In this case, a conflict began during winter break and the student brought the firearm with the intent to protect himself from off-campus threats, according to a USD 497 tweet and an email sent to faculty members by school administrators on Thursday.

School board policy and state law state that when a weapon is brought on campus, the student will be expelled for no less than one year of school. Exceptions to this policy come at the superintendent’s discretion.

On Thursday, faculty members were reminded by email that the school’s mental health team is open to students who have concerns or need support. Members of the team can be accessed through the Student Services office.

The several safety incidents last year resulted in greater efforts to build relationships between faculty and students, as well as a community conversation hosted by Lewis at Lawrence High. The district has also partnered with BeSMART, an organization that advocates firearm safety education.

“I think It’s kind of crazy that people bring stuff like that to school especially because it was our first day back from school,” junior Alicia Robinson said. “It’s kind of scary because it’s happened multiple times so we don’t know if it’s going to happen again.”

Update 1/10/2020 10:02 a.m. — Compton, in an email to The Budget on Friday, confirmed the firearm confiscated was a handgun.

Sami Turner and Meriel Salisbury contributed to this report.