One month before receiving his high school diploma, Keyon Robinson went to campus with a loaded revolver in his backpack.
The True Motive
That morning, he fought with a relative. He was afraid that someone would come after him and was furious. His safety net was the gun, a ghost gun in the Glock design that he had purchased on social media and had no serial number.
Robinson, now 19 years old, stated, “I felt like I just needed it for safety because of the crap I got myself into.”
He maintains that he had no desire to harm any students at his school in the Oak Park neighborhood, which borders the West Side of Chicago. I did not need a gun at all.
Moreover, he never shot it. Authorities apprehended Robinson on May 3 as he was returning from lunch, three weeks before a shooter in Uvalde, Texas, killed 19 kids and two instructors. He claimed that he hadn’t even taken the gun out of his rucksack until the authorities asked him to do so. The officers were acting on a tip.
Still, in a split second, that one choice altered the course of his young life. Additionally, it shocked the whole school community, sparking heated debates on how to safeguard the students.
Most gun occurrences on and near schools resemble Oak Park more than Uvalde. They don’t involve active shooters or large-scale, premeditated shootings. According to the K-12 School Shooting Database, which keeps track of occurrences from the last 50 years, they are more frequently minor altercations that turn violent when someone is carrying a gun at or close to a school, a game, or another event.
Robinson claimed that after his arrest, he was dismissed. However, the district allowed him to finish his education away from his fellow students and the campus, where he could not set foot. A Cook County judge agreed that going to school in some capacity was “the wisest thing for him to do,” but she sternly warned him to stay away from school property and weapons.
Yes, your honor, replied Robinson.
After a few weeks in jail, the judge agreed to his release on bond, and he spent most of the summer in his family’s Oak Park apartment while being tracked by ankle monitors. He played video games, spent time with his mother and siblings, and accomplished his education. He finally received his diploma.
The monitors are constantly restricted, according to Robinson. But I must express my gratitude.
He has been permitted to work at a fast-food business while he waits to hear the verdict in court. He eventually wants to attend a community college or trade school and perhaps play football. Because this is the first offense, he and his family hope the felony charges can be postponed.
The Official’s Verdict
Officials say that preventing children from carrying weapons to school is challenging.
Metal detectors and security personnel both miss items, experts claim. Doors that should be locked end up being propped open. Even though schools demand clear backpacks, items can still be hidden.
Leaders at Robinson’s school, Oak Park, and River Forest High started training more staff members this fall. They also increased security during the day shift and assigned more seasoned team members to high-crime areas like cafeterias, where fights sometimes break out at lunch. Signs across the vast campus urge students to serve as the institution’s eyes and ears: “If You See Something, Say Something.”
The OPRF school is attempting to balance keeping kids and staff safe with avoiding making them feel unwelcome or nervous. Amidst widespread protests against police violence in 2020, the School Board voted 6-1 to abolish the school resource officer program. After a white Minneapolis police officer killed Black man George Floyd while other cops looked on, calls for reform were louder that summer.
Currently, some officials are reconsidering their choice to sever connections with the police. The most excellent approach to establishing trust, spotting risks, and averting disasters are engaging with pupils, a universally shared notion among educators.
Robinson was a student who developed relationships with teachers at OPRF, including support personnel, based on his narrative and information from school resoucords supplied by his attorney. One employee praised him for his “unbelievable social skills” and respect. Staff members claimed that while he was aware of his errors, he occasionally exhibited impulsivity, drug usage, and sadness. Schoolwork was a challenge.
“I think it is reasonable to have much tighter security — and have an officer in the school now,” he said, referencing his error and previous missteps. “I believe that is something appropriate.”
In place of zero-tolerance policies, which frequently disproportionately harm kids of color, OPRF is one of many schools around the country that have switched to a restorative justice model. In the secondary school at OPRF, about 3,400 pupils, or 44%, identify as Black, Hispanic, mixed, or Asian.
In restorative justice, cases are handled individually, and more time is spent understanding what happened to try to stop repeat behavior. Based on how brutal the act was, there are repercussions. However, the objective is for students to learn more and make better decisions while receiving support.
Greg Johnson, the superintendent, still sees a possibility to reconsider what function the police might play at the school. Johnson, a white man, informed the school board that he knows the “very genuine issue” individuals of color encounter when dealing with law enforcement.
However, he added, “As a school system, we believe that the route through it is education and relationships. He continued, “We need a partnership with the police.” “A member of our crisis team is needed here,”
According to the most recently available statistics from a federal survey, 42 percent of public schools had at least one resource officer one day or more each week in 2015–16. According to the National Association of School Resource Officers, an estimated 14,000 to 20,000 resource officers work in K–12 schools, which assists in training police to work in educational settings.
However, when one OPRF board member complimented attempts to “harden” security this fall, at least two other board members objected.
Gina Harris, another member, stated, “We want to keep the buildings secure. But for me as a Black woman, as well as for families and students, that language is difficult and upsetting.
“The news media reports that a youngster was carrying a gun to school, and that’s all. And people make their judgments,” stated lawyer Thomas Benno. He asks the court to consider Robinson’s desire to defend himself when determining why he had the gun on him.
Benno requests the deferred sentence, which entails probation and other conditions specified by the court because Robinson had no prior criminal history other than a traffic infraction. According to Benno, it’s a tight, closely-monitored software with no room for more errors. According to school officials, his young client is a leader in his social circles, so he thinks it’s better than incarceration in this case. He also hopes that his client will share his cautionary tale.
The court now has the power to provide him with a second opportunity.