Fayette County Schools Superintendent Manny Caulk is calling for random metal detector checks at all five public high schools in Lexington after a third Tates Creek High School student in 12 days was arrested Monday for having a gun on campus.
“The superintendent has asked our head of law enforcement, our attorney and our two high school directors to develop a plan to institute” random metal detector checks in Fayette County high schools to begin no later than Nov. 21, said district spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall.
On Monday morning, Lexington police picked up a student in the neighborhood near Tates Creek High for truancy and brought him to campus, according to a note Principal Sam Meaux sent to parents. School law enforcement officers searched the student and found a loaded gun, Meaux said.
After the two earlier incidents, Tates Creek began a protocol of searching any student whom Lexington police officers bring to campus.
The student was charged with possession of a weapon on school property and will face serious administrative consequences through the school district.
“I know this is disturbing,” Meaux said in the email to parents. “I am just as upset as you are. But I hope you see that we found the weapon today because our school responded to last week’s incident by making a change in practice.” He also said the district’s law enforcement “does an amazing job of safeguarding our schools and working with us to ensure the safety of our students.”
“I’ve been principal at Tates Creek High School for more than a decade, and this is not emblematic of our school. Tates Creek is a caring and safe community, and although we have had three guns on our campus in the past 12 days, none of the students had any intent of using the weapons at school.”
Meaux said schools are microcosms of the neighborhoods that they serve, and solving the proliferation of weapons in the community will require a broader commitment from families and others.
“I’ve seen the neighborhood change; it’s not the same neighborhood as it was 27 years ago,” Meaux said Monday during a news conference. “I think with the change, it’s brought about a different set of issues and a different set of priorities. A school is just a gathering place for the community, so we deal with the issues of the community. As those issues have changed, we’ve had to deal with them.”
Fayette schools’ law enforcement director Lawrence Weathers said it’s important to find out what’s causing the students to carry guns.
“We have to make sure that everybody feels safe,” Weathers said. “To do that, we have to figure out what is it that is making them feel unsafe. And if there’s something outside that’s making them feel unsafe, I think it’s safe to say that that can be brought into the school arena, and we’ve got to do as much as we can to offset that.”
Police are working to address a concern brought to their attention after the second incident involving a gun at the south Lexington school, police spokeswoman Brenna Angel said. The student involved in that incident indicated the gun was for safety and his neighborhood.
Meaux said in his email that he is communicating closely with district leaders and Lexington police.
On Nov. 9, a student, who initially didn’t intend to come to school, was observed “in the community” by a Lexington police officer and transported to school after 10 a.m. Before being brought to school, the student consented to a cursory pat-down, and no weapon was found. Because the student wasn’t being arrested, police couldn’t conduct a more thorough search. Lexington police are working with Fayette schools officials to evaluate the process for dealing with truant students whom officers encounter in the community, Angel said.
Once the student arrived at school, Tates Creek High staff saw him try to hide the weapon in the library, and he was taken into custody by school officers. The student was charged with possession of a weapon on school property and will face serious administrative consequences through the school district.
On Nov. 2, another student brought a loaded gun to school. In that case, Lamaar Dequan Sanford was charged with possession of a weapon on school property, possession of a concealed deadly weapon and resisting arrest, according to the Fayette County jail website. Sanford was 18 and has been charged as an adult.
Meaux previously said that the Nov. 2 and Nov. 9 incidents weren’t related and didn’t involve gang activity. District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall clarified that none of the incidents were related and none of the incidents were related to the school.
Jon Akers, director of the Kentucky Center for School Safety, said all schools should realize that it could happen to any school “two or three times.”
“I would have to ask what is going on in the neighborhood and ... the homes that the kids are getting the guns,” Akers said. He said the students were using the guns for potential protection when they were away from school.
He said the principal “was doing a good job at Tates Creek in calling the parents and the community together and asking for their help.”
There will be a meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Tates Creek High School, 1111 Centre Parkway, for families and the community.