SCHOOL VIOLENCE NUMBERS REMAIN STEADY
The sixth annual statewide report on school violence shows that school violence figures remained steady between 1997-98 and 1998-99. While the number of all reported acts rose by a statistically insignificant four cases, the total occurrences of all acts per 1,000 students decreased slightly from 6.343 to 6.237.
As in every previous reporting year, three acts made up the majority of all acts reported. Possession of weapons (not firearms), possession of a controlled substance and assault on school personnel account for 86 percent of all reported misbehaviors. In addition, 77 percent of the schools continue to report five or fewer incidents each year.
Only 7,773 out of the 1,237,608 million students attending public schools in North Carolina were involved in any reported incident. That is significantly less than 1 percent.
Incidents reported each year are specifically defined and include obvious violent acts, such as assault, but also other acts that are considered to be a negative influence on school climate, such as possession of a controlled substance. There are 14 categories of incidents.
Statistically significant decreases were seen in several categories in 1998-99.
- Possession of a controlled substance is down 9 percent, from 2,620 in 1997-98 to 2,389 in 1998-99.
- Possession of a firearm is down 10 percent, from 160 in 1997-98 to 144 in 1998-99.
- Robbery without a dangerous weapon declined 34 percent, from 143 to 94.
- Sexual offenses are down 7 percent from 92 incidents to 86.
There also were reported increases in some categories.
- Possession of a weapon (not a firearm) increased by 7 percent, from 2,723 to 2,923.
- Assault resulting in serious injury increased by 13 percent from 288 cases to 325.
- Sexual assault reports were up by 16 percent, with 233 cases reported in 1998-99.
- Assault with a weapon increased by 16 percent, totaling 146 cases in 1998-99 versus 126.
School district reports that list the number of incidents in each category do not include details about causes or circumstances surrounding the incidents that occurred in each school.
The 1998-99 school year, nationally, was marred by fatal shootings at schools in several states. In many North Carolina districts, school officials reported heavy copy-cat threats and hoaxes. These situations may have contributed to the increase in reported incidents in certain categories.
State Board of Education Chairman Phillip J. Kirk Jr., said that he was confident that public schools in North Carolina remain safe. "Schools are among the safest places for children to be, but as long as there is any violence in them at all, it is too much."
State Superintendent Mike Ward said that he is encouraged by the number of schools working on safety even though they had not experienced any problems. "Safety is a priority in every school I visit. Even though the highly publicized acts of school violence have been mostly out-of-state, every North Carolina school's faculty knows that they should work to prevent this type of thing. Vigilant prevention and caring school environments are the elements that we need in every school."
School safety is a top priority for the State Board of Education, which discusses ways to improve school safety and climate at nearly all of its monthly meetings. Over the past year, the Board has considered alternative education programs for suspended and expelled students, approved improvements to its policies in this area and provided funds for Safe School Assistance Teams. These teams, one serving eastern North Carolina and one serving western North Carolina, are available to districts and schools in the event of a crisis. The teams also are called routinely to do safe school audits and recommend ways to prevent violence. Since the beginning of the 1998 school year, nearly half of the state's 117 districts and more than 100 schools have used the Safe School teams to help them prevent school violence.
This year's school violence report also noted that students identified as exceptional children continue to account for a disproportionate share of high-incidence acts. For example, exceptional children committed 58 percent of all reported assaults on school personnel and 35 percent of assaults with a weapon and sexual offenses. Exceptional children represent 13 percent of public school students.
Middle and high schools continue to record the most incidents.
See the attached charts to view the number of incidents by type and school district. For more information, contact Elsie Leak, director of School Improvement, 919-807-3911.
Statewide Statistics 93-97
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.