The Gun-Free Schools Act (GFSA) requires that each state receiving federal funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) have a state law that requires all local educational agencies (LEAs) in the state to expel from school for at least one year any student found bringing a firearm to school. (See Appendix A for a copy of the GFSA.) State laws must also authorize the LEA chief administering officer to modify any such expulsion on a case-by-case basis. In addition, the GFSA states that it must be construed so as to be consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
The GFSA requires states to report information about the implementation of the act annually to the Secretary of Education. In order to meet this requirement and to monitor compliance with the GFSA, the Department of Education (the Department) requires each state to submit an annual report that provides:
For the remainder of this report, the term "states" refers to the 56 jurisdictions (states and territories) covered under the Gun-Free Schools Act. Puerto Rico did not submit any GFSA data for the 1998-99 reporting year. In addition, Mississippi has not provided a final verification of their 1998-99 data.
Following information on data interpretation and quality, this report is divided into three sections and summarizes the 1998-99 data submitted by the states. The first section is a brief summary of the overall findings. The second section presents a summary of the 1998-99 data in bulleted, graphic, and tabular form as well as a comparison between the 1998-99 and 1997-98 data. The tables in this section contain data notes that are critical to the correct interpretation of the data. The third section presents a page for each state. Each of these pages contains the data submitted by the state, as well as any caveats or data notes accompanying the data. Finally, there are two appendices to the report ? Appendix A contains a copy of the Gun-Free Schools Act and a copy of the 1998-99 GFSA state data collection instrument can be found in Appendix B.
The information contained in this report should be interpreted with caution. First, as noted on the summary state-by-state tables and on the individual state pages, some states attached caveats and data notes to their data that should be considered when interpreting the data. This is of particular importance when examining national totals, as they are made up of data that are not necessarily comparable from state to state in all cases. Second, some states submitted aggregate data that were not broken out by school level and/or by type of weapon. The expulsions for these states are included in the overall summary totals but are not included in the figures by type of firearm or by school level. This means that the total number of reported expulsions differs for each questionnaire item summarized in this report.
Finally, this report is not designed to provide information to the reader regarding the rate at which students carry firearms to school. The data summarized in this report relates to actions taken in regard to the number of students caught bringing firearms to schools.
Westat, under contract to the Department, collected the data from each state department of education. In order to ensure that the data are reported accurately, the following procedures were followed:
Overall, 55 states provided data on the number of students expelled for bringing a firearm to school, for a total of 3,523 expulsions. California, Georgia, New York, and Texas were the only states with greater than 200 expulsions. When viewed as the number of expulsions per 1,000 enrolled students, Alabama had the highest number of expulsions per 1,000 students. Refer to Table 1 for more detailed information on the data provided by the individual states and the appropriate data caveats.
Fifty-four states provided data on their expulsions by school level.2 Over 95 percent of all reported expulsions were reported by school level (3,371 of 3,523).
Of these 3,371 expulsions, over half (1,921 or 57 percent) were students in senior high schools, 33 percent (1,109) were students in junior high, and 10 percent (341) were elementary school students. (See Figure 1 and Table 2)
2Elementary school - A school classified as elementary by state and local practice and composed of any span of grades not above Grade 6. Combined elementary/junior high schools are considered junior high schools and combined elementary and secondary schools (e.g., K-12 buildings) are classified as high schools for this report. Junior high school - A separately organized and administered school intermediate between elementary and senior high schools, which might also be called a middle school, usually includes Grades 7, 8, and 9; Grade 7 and 8; or Grades 6, 7, and 8. Combined elementary/junior high schools are considered junior high schools for this report; junior/senior high school combinations are defined as senior high schools. Senior high school - A school offering the final years of school work necessary for graduation, usually including Grades 10, 11, and 12; or Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. Combined junior and senior high schools are classified as high schools for this form; combined elementary and secondary schools (e.g., K-12 buildings) are classified as high schools.
Junior high school - A separately organized and administered school intermediate between elementary and senior high schools, which might also be called a middle school, usually includes Grades 7, 8, and 9; Grade 7 and 8; or Grades 6, 7, and 8. Combined elementary/junior high schools are considered junior high schools for this report; junior/senior high school combinations are defined as senior high schools.
Senior high school - A school offering the final years of school work necessary for graduation, usually including Grades 10, 11, and 12; or Grades 9, 10, 11, and 12. Combined junior and senior high schools are classified as high schools for this form; combined elementary and secondary schools (e.g., K-12 buildings) are classified as high schools.
Fifty-four states provided data that differentiated the type of firearm brought to school by students. Over 95 percent of all reported expulsions were reported by type of firearm (3,371 of 3,523).
Of these 3,371 expulsions, 59 percent (1,991) involved handguns, 12 percent (418) involved rifles or shotguns, and the remaining 29 percent (962) involved other types of firearms (such as bombs, grenades, starter pistols, and rockets). (See Figure 2 and Table 3)
All but one state submitted data for both 1997-98 and 1998-99. However, in several of these states, the data are not comparable from across the two years, primarily because of changes in reporting. In addition, eleven states ? Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Washington, and the Virgin Islands ? revised the data they submitted for 1997-98. As a result, the total number of expulsions reported for 1997-98 differs from figures previously published in the 1997-98 Gun-Free Schools Act Report.
Among the 55 states which submitted data for both 1997-98 and 1998-99, the number of students expelled for bringing a firearm to school decreased by 4 percent, from 3,658 (revised from originally published figures) to 3,523. (See the notes on Table 4for further information on year-to-year comparability for individual states.)
he GFSA allows the LEA chief administering officer to modify any expulsion for a firearm violation on a case-by-case basis (for example, by shortening the expulsion to less than one year). The purpose of this provision is to allow the chief administering officer in a school district to take unique circumstances into account as well as to ensure that the IDEA and GFSA requirements are implemented consistently. In order to capture these modifications, states were asked to report the number of students who had their period of expulsion shortened, as well as the number of these cases that were not for students with disabilities.
Fifty-one states reported the number of students whose expulsions were shortened to less than one year as part of the case-by-case review process.
Of the 3,149 expulsions in these states 855 (or 27 percent) were shortened to less than one year. (See Figure 3 and Table 5)
Disability Status of Students with Shortened Expulsions
Fifty-one states reported on the disability status of the students with shortened expulsions. These were the same 51 states that reported information on shortened expulsions.
Of the 855 students, whose expulsion was shortened, 613 (72 percent) were not considered disabled under section 602(a)(1) of IDEA. (See Figure 4 and Table 6)
The GFSA has in place provisions that allow local officials to refer expelled students to an alternative school or program. Forty-nine states reported information for this data item, and among these states 1,373 students (44 percent) were referred for an alternative placement. (See Figure 5 and Table 7)