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5 years after Balboa High School went into lockdown, another student brought a gun undetected

Balboa High School exterior | Constanza Hevia H. for The Standard

A student managed to bring a gun undetected into a San Francisco high school this week, evoking a 2018 incident at the same school that led to a lockdown.

After staff became aware that a student had brought a weapon into Balboa High School on Tuesday, they called the San Francisco Police Department. Officers responded around noon, locating a 17-year-old boy in possession of a firearm.

Police seized the weapon and placed the student in custody, said SFPD spokesperson Niccole Paccetti. There were no reports of threats or injuries. 

SFPD, citing an open investigation, declined to state if the firearm was loaded or accompanied by bullets. They did not comment as to whether any charges were made.

“The student was cooperative and the weapon was not brandished at any time,” said Laura Dudnick, a spokesperson for the San Francisco Unified School District. “We are grateful that no one was harmed. The safety of students and staff is our highest priority.”

The incident comes less than a month after a 6-year-old in Virginia brought a gun to school and shot his teacher. In January, California saw the highest number of mass shooting-related deaths in a single month since 2013. 

Balboa High, in the small Cayuga Terrace neighborhood near San Francisco’s Excelsior District, has been through a similar incident before. Five years ago, a student there allegedly fired a gun, sending the school and three others in the area into a lockdown. That student later turned himself in off-campus, but not before three others were initially arrested, as the San Francisco Examiner reported.

That 2018 incident highlighted gaps in policy around police on campus and led to legislation requiring a parent or legal guardian to be in the room whenever students are interrogated by SFPD. 

Supervisor Hillary Ronen—who called a hearing on the 2018 matter—tied Tuesday’s incident to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that expands rights around concealed weapons, including in jurisditions like San Francisco that regulate firearms. Ronen told The Standard she believes the court’s decision led to an increase in the number of guns generally.

Nor is she surprised that a gun slipped by an understaffed school. 

“There’s not enough social workers, mental health counselors, teachers, paraeducators,” Ronen said. “We have record vacancies in every department, and the school district is the exact same. We’re really struggling as a local government to properly staff agencies to do their job well.”