1997 ANNUAL STATEWIDE REPORT ON SCHOOL VIOLENCE
For First Time, Reported School Violence Decreases Overall from Previous Year
The fourth annual statewide report on school violence shows the number of reported incidents decreased overall from the previous year for the first time: 8,141 for 1996-97, down from 8,173 in 1995-96. The three most frequently occurring acts continue to be possession of a controlled substance (2,720, down from 2,753), possession of a weapon (2,690, down from 2,751), and assault on a school employee (1,375, down from 1,443). Together, these categories account for 83 percent of all acts committed, but that total is down from 85 percent for 1995-96.
The majority of reporting schools--76 percent--had five or fewer incidents, and 39 percent of reporting schools had no incidents.
Decreases continued to be reported for possession of a firearm, down 21 percent (163 compared to 206 the previous year); and sexual offense, down 13 percent (127 compared to 146 the previous year); but increases were noted for robbery, up 14 percent (223 compared to 195); assault with serious injury, up 19 percent (371 compared to 313); assault with a weapon, up 20 percent (194 compared to 161); and sexual assault, up 29 percent (245 compared to 190).
Statewide, arrests represented 32 percent of the 8,540 reported student offenders, compared to 30 percent in 1995-96. With 8,540 student offenders out of a 96-97 student population of 1,199,962, that means that far less than one percent (.007%) of students were involved in some reported school violence act.
Dr. Mike Ward, State Superintendent, said of the latest report, "We're delighted to see this first-ever decrease in reported school violence. I'd be remiss, however, if I didn't point out that we are extremely concerned that our students and staff are safe at school. In fact, this is one of the major emphasis areas the State Board of Education has adopted in its plan of work. So, while the decrease is good news, we have to do absolutely everything possible to reduce school violence even further."
A new analysis begun last year reveals that disproportionately more reported incidents continue to occur in the state's largest schools, regardless of grade level. This effect was greatest for high schools of 1,500 students or more.
The following were the most-often reported effective school strategies for combatting school violence: school improvement teams, which presumably developed a safe schools component to their school improvement plan, 1,348 schools; regular classroom instruction or programs, 1,328 schools; student discipline initiatives, 1,315 schools; parent involvement, 1,205 schools. Effective strategies that have clearly increased are: video detection systems (133 percent increase); school resource officers, or SROs (63 percent); classroom emergency communication devices (29 percent); and student assistance teams (17 percent).
The Annual Report on School Violence resulted from the Governor's Task Force on School Violence and the Safe Schools Act, passed by the NC General Assembly in 1993. The Safe Schools Act mandates that the State Board of Education issues an annual report, based on reports from all school systems of incidents of specified violence/crime on school property. This fourth report marks the second time individual schools reported their data; in the first two years of the report, each school district provided only systemwide numbers.
Schools are required to report incidents of assault resulting in serious personal injury; assault (not resulting in serious injury) on school officials, employees and volunteers; armed robbery and robbery; assault involving use of a weapon; indecent liberties with a minor; kidnapping; possession of a weapon, a firearm or a controlled substance in violation of the law; rape; sexual assault; sexual offense; and homicide. The report does not include all disruptive, violent or criminal acts. For instance, vandalism and student fights that do not involve serious injury are not included.
"The violence report can help schools plan and direct intervention and prevention efforts more effectively," said Dr. Elsie Leak, director of the Department of Public Instruction's School Improvement Division. She noted that legislation passed in 1997 requires a safe school plan as part of every school's School Improvement Plan. That legislation also calls for safe schools assistance teams where warranted and calls for one percent salary increases to principals in schools that meet certain safety criteria.
Dr. Leak warned against comparisons among schools or school districts. "A high number of reported incidents, for example, may be indicative of a school or school system that has implemented comprehensive security measures, whereas another school or school system with a low number of reported incidents may not have implemented such measures and is therefore less likely to detect some incidents. Also, interpretation, detection, documentation and reporting of specified acts and incidents continue to vary across schools and school districts."
(For additional information, contact your local school system, or Dr. Elsie Leak at 919.715.1906.)
Statewide Number of Reported Acts of School Crime and Violence
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.
For more information:
NCDPI Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.