DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — Since September, at least five students have been caught possessing guns on Durham Public Schools campuses.
A 14-year-old boy was caught with a loaded gun at Jordan High School in February.
On Thursday, a Hillside High School student was caught with a gun after school resource officers searched his vehicle. Later in the day at Lowe’s Grove Middle School, a 14-year-old was found with a handgun that had an extended magazine.
It’s just the latest in a string of incidents involving guns on or near school property in Durham.
“My brain wonders what is going through students’ minds to feel that finding a weapon is what they need to do,” DPS Board of Education Chair Bettina Umstead said.
Students are bringing guns on campus in neighboring counties as well.
Three weeks ago, a boy brought a loaded assault rifle to a Wake County high school basketball game.
Umstead said she wants a statewide solution to help support students.
“It breaks my heart to know that some of the decisions that students can make at 14, 15, 16 [years old] can also change the trajectory of their lives,” she said.
Umstead recently sent a letter to DPS families addressing safe gun storage, as the county is also offering free gun locks. She said the district is working to increase mental health support in schools while bringing in additional counselors and social workers.
“Share with your children that if they see something, they can say something,” Umstead said.
After the most recent incidents Thursday, Durham County Sheriff Clarence Birkhead provided a statement.
“It takes everyone – students, parents, teachers, and our SROs – to work together to create a safe environment for our young people to thrive,” the statement read, in part.
The school board leader said an anonymous text tip line has been effective in catching students with firearms.
Parents and children who are concerned about their safety are encouraged to reach out to their respective principals.