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Gun-Free Requirements (IV-A-3)


The Gun-Free Schools Act requires each state that receives funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) to have in effect a state law requiring districts to expel for at least one year any student who brings a gun to school or possesses a gun in school. This requirement not only removes potentially dangerous students from the school environment but also provides a deterrent, discouraging other students from bringing firearms to school. Over time, this has the potential to make the school environment safer by reducing the number of firearms present in schools.

Overall, 55 states and territories provided information about their implementation of the Gun-Free Schools Act for the 1998-99 school year. These states reported that they expelled a total of 3,523 students from school for bringing in a firearm to school. [One state however, reported data for total expulsions for all weapons-not just firearms-and therefore the figures reported by this state may overestimate the actual number of expulsions under the Gun-Free Schools Act.] States reported that 44 percent of the students they expelled were referred to an alternative school or placement.

Fifty-seven percent of the expulsions were students in high school, 33 percent were in junior high, and 10 percent were in elementary school. States were asked to report the type of firearm involved, and of these, 59 percent were for bringing a handgun to school, 12 percent were for bringing a rifle or shotgun, and 29 percent were for some other type of weapons (such as bombs, grenades, or starter pistols).

States reported that 27 percent of expulsions were shortened to less than one year, and 72 percent of these shortened expulsions were for students who were not considered disabled.

WHAT'S NEW--The No Child Left Behind Act

Focuses on What Works

  • Clarifies what is prohibited. The law now clarifies that students must be expelled for possessing a gun in school, not just for bringing a gun to school.
  • Requires that modified expulsions be recorded. Districts are still able to modify student expulsions on a case-by-case basis, but that modification must now be in writing.
  • Allows certain exceptions. Exceptions to the expulsion requirement are now expressly allowed in two cases: firearms that are lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle on school property, and firearms that are brought to school or possessed in school for activities approved and authorized by the district, if the district adopts appropriate safeguards to ensure student safety.

How It Works

This provision requires states to prohibit students from bringing firearms to school or possessing firearms in school, with "school" being defined as any setting under the control and supervision of the district for the purpose of authorized student activities. A definition of "firearm" is provided by reference to another statute and includes not only guns but also other dangerous devices such as bombs, rockets, and grenades. Districts must expel offending students from their regular school for at least one year, although this requirement must be construed in a manner consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and expelled students may be provided with educational services in an alternative setting. Districts may choose to modify these expulsions-in writing-on a case-by-case basis. Districts are also required to refer offending students to the criminal justice or juvenile delinquency system.

How Performance Is Measured

The U.S. Department of Education issues a report annually on the number of expulsions nationally, including changes over time for each state.

Key Activities For The State Education Agencies

  • States must have in effect a law that meets the requirements of the Gun-Free Schools Act.
  • State education agencies (SEAs) must require districts to include in their applications for funds under ESEA as amended by the NCLB Act an assurance that they are in compliance with the law.
  • SEAs must collect from districts information on any expulsions that are made under the law, and must report that information to the U.S. Department of Education annually, including the name of the school concerned, the number of students expelled from each school, and the type of firearms involved.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007