EDUCATION

Study: 54 percent of D.C. public schools had gunfire close by during 2011-12 school year

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WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - A new study shows that large numbers of District of Columbia school students could hear gunfire near their school buildings during the 2011-2012 school year.

The study released Wednesday by the Urban Institute examined District public and charter schools that are in areas covered by gunfire-detection technology. It found that 54 percent of those schools had at least one gunshot fired within 1,000 feet of the school during the year.

A handful of schools were close to a disproportionate amount of gun violence. Nearly half the gunfire occurred within 1,000 feet of just 9 percent of schools, and four schools had 9 to 11 incidents within 500 feet.

Those four schools are in three different neighborhoods, including two in Columbia Heights in northwest Washington.

D.C. mother Shana Holmes said, too often, she has received disturbing text alerts about police being at her child's school. Holmes has two children that attend public schools in the District.

Holmes said among the reasons for the various incidents and alerts were, "The school is on lockdown, someone is committing crimes, [police are] looking for a suspect or two."

Holmes said the text alerts leave her feeling terribly helpless.

"You just don't know what to do," she said. "You can't come pick up your children."

Another parent, Lewis Smith said he's actually more fearful for his child when school is not in session.

"I feel safe for them inside the school," he said. "Once you get outside the school, it's kind of different."

It's clear why some parents like Smith feel that way, given recent shootings in the District - from two 17-year-old Ballou High School students being shot at a bus stop in May, to an April shooting of a man near Ludlow-Taylor Elementary School while kids played on the playground.

ShotSpotters, the gunfire detection technology, picked up 336 incidents of gunfire in D.C. during the school day in the 2011-12 school year.

Four schools - all in Northwest D.C. - had between nine and 11 incidents of gun violence within 500 feet. Those schools were Booker T. Washington on Florida Avenue, the two E.L. Haynes public charter schools, located on Georgia Avenue and Kansas Avenue; and Meridian public charter school.

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