Air guns equal firearms at Kaua’i schools

Letters were sent out to parents of elementary and middle school-aged children late last month reminding them that any student caught bring-ing air guns to school can be “excluded from school” for no less than one school-calendar year.

Although reports show it is not a considerable problem on Kaua’i, it has been unofficially reported that incidents occurring between July 1, and Oct. 31, 2005 have nearly doubled across the state, compared to that same period in 2004.

Out of 30 incidents recorded in last year’s legislative report on mandatory expulsion for the possession of a firearm, 18 of them being air gun violations, only one of those incidents came from a Kaua’i school.

Kauai Complex Superintendent Daniel Hamada said if the administrators foresee something becoming an issue, they interject.

“Instead of waiting for anything to happen, we try to be proactive about it,” he said.

He said the school administrators have kept up the communication with parents through school newsletters or Parent, Teacher, and Student Association meetings.

Deputy Superintendent Clayton Fujie said that sending out the letter is their most recent reminder for parents and their children that the firearms are not permitted in the schools.

“A lot of the times, (kids) will put them in their backpack because they’re going to use them after school,” Fujie said. “(The parents) have to remind the kids, (the guns) are for home and not the school.”

As for the noticeable increase in incidents, Fujie said the incidents vary from year to year.

According to last school year’s legislative report on mandatory expulsion for the possession of a firearm, the figures were down from figures recorded in the 2003 to 2004 year. Things seemed to have bounced back up.

“Every year, the administrators will speak to students about Chapter 19,” Fujie said. “It’s just a reminder to the parents what the consequences are. To them it’s a toy. Under our statutes, it’s a firearm.”

Shane Agoot of Kapahi said altogether, his family has eight air guns. He said he and his wife, Shereen, remind their kids that the guns are inappropriate for school.

“The only time (the kids) play with the air guns is when they have adult supervision,” Agoot said. “Anybody can get hurt. We tell them it’s not OK to bring the guns to school. They can only play in the yard.”

Chapter 19 of the Hawaii Administrative Rules, categorizes air guns as “firearms,” defined as “any weapon (including a starter gun, shotgun, air gun, or cross bow) which will or is designed to, or may readily be converted, to expel a projectile.”

Last year’s legislative report states recommendations that schools “routinely review with students the Hawaii’s definition and consequence of ‘firearms’ which include air guns, paintball pellet and BB guns.”

The superintendent of each complex area is entitled to evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis and may modify the student’s exclusion. Parents of the children caught with the air guns are permitted to contest the expulsion.

A flyer with the slogan “Be Cool! Don’t be a fool in school!” was sent out with the letters explaining the consequences of bringing inappropriate items to school.

To view the legislative report or other reports for Hawai’i’s Public Schools, visit doe.k12.hi.us. To read the administrative rules, visit the Board of Education’s Web site at boe.k12.hi.us.

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