SCHOOL VIOLENCE NUMBERS INCREASED IN 2001-02
State leaders today expressed concern that the number of school crimes and violent incidents increased in 2001-02. Some of the increase reflects the addition of three new reportable offenses and increases in reporting accuracy and the overall crime rate.
The ninth Annual Report on School Crime and Violence, presented today to the State Board of Education, showed a total of 10,951 acts were reported for last school year. Three offenses that were not included in earlier reports were incorporated in the 2001-02 report. Bomb threats, possession of alcoholic beverages and burning of school buildings accounted for 1,289 incidents. Even without these new categories included, however, the number of reportable offenses went up by 2,099 or 28 percent over the 2000-01 school year. This is the first significant increase in the numbers since 1997-98.
The number of acts per 1,000 students is now at 9.482. In 2000-01 it was 6.083 per 1,000 students. Five years ago, the number of acts per 1,000 students was 6.343.
State Superintendent Mike Ward said that he was not satisfied with simply reporting the higher numbers. Local school districts are being asked to incorporate goals for improving school safety in their Safe Schools Plans, which must be submitted to the Department of Public Instruction at the end of the year. "Any amount of crime or violence in our schools is too much, but an increase of this magnitude is a red flag. I hope that more accurate reporting, better training and the zero tolerance policy are behind the increase, but even if this is the case, we need to build stronger partnerships among schools, families and communities to ensure that safety is a paramount goal."
In response to the latest report, Ward announced that he will hold a special meeting of selected local superintendents as part of the 2003 Safe Schools Conference in February to explore reasons for the increases and ways to balance the requirement to accurately report crime with the fear of doing so. The Safe Schools conference is an annual event that provides training and recognition for work underway to improve school safety. In addition to this effort, DPI and other partnership organizations also sponsor and support a variety of training efforts. For example, on Nov. 15, the NC Medical Society Alliance is sponsoring Bullying: Stop the Bully without Becoming One, a one-day conference in Greensboro for educators, parents, social workers and others who work with children. Also, the ongoing Governor's Academy on
Prevention Professionals, which recently graduated a new class, provides training for school personnel and others to improve their skills in preventing substance abuse.
Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, states are required to identify "persistently dangerous schools" and offer parents the opportunity to transfer their children from these schools to other public schools in the district. This places additional pressure on school officials when it comes time to report incidents of violence or crime on their campuses. In North Carolina, "persistently dangerous schools" have been defined as public elementary, middle or secondary schools or charter schools in which a total of five or more violent criminal offenses were committed per 1,000 students during each of the two most recent school years and in which the conditions that contributed to the commission of these offenses are likely to continue into another school year. Schools meeting this definition would be reviewed by the State Board of Education to determine if a school should be placed on probation or whether no other intervention is necessary to protect students from violent crimes.
State Board of Education Chairman Phil Kirk noted that, statistically, schools continue to be safe places, and yet, any amount of violence or crime in schools is troubling. "This year's increase in the number of acts per 1,000 students is a cause for concern. Although I understand that schools are being more diligent in reporting every infraction, this is no consolation to students who are consistently good citizens and expect their peers will demonstrate the same respect for others."
As in previous years, three incidents continue to be the most numerous: possession of controlled substance in violation of law, assault on school personnel, and possession of a weapon excluding firearms and powerful explosives. These three offenses accounted for 73 percent of all reported acts.
A total of 8,083 regular students and 2,659 exceptional students were identified as offenders in 2001-02. School staff were more likely to be victims of violence on school grounds than students were. The victims of school crime included 1,460 staff members and 985 students. Six of the 17 reportable incidents do not involve victims because of the nature of the offense. According to these numbers, approximately five students, on average, were victims of school crime on each of the 180 days in the school year.
High schools accounted for approximately one-half of all the reported crimes and acts of violence, and middle schools reported more crimes than elementary schools did.
The total number of reported occurrences for each reportable act are listed below:
Possession of a controlled substance in violation of law3,291
Possession of a weapon excluding firearms and powerful explosives2,925
Assault on school personnel not resulting in serious injury1,816
Possession of alcoholic beverage963
Assault resulting in serious injury515
Sexual assault not involving rape or sexual offense297
Robbery without a dangerous weapon249
Assault involving a weapon117
Possession of a firearm or powerful explosives115
Burning of school building83
Taking indecent liberties with a minor22
Death by other than natural causes8
Robbery with a dangerous weapon7
As in previous years, the number and frequency of acts is the lowest in elementary schools (grades K-5) and highest at the high school level. Forty percent of all schools reported no acts of crime or violence. Another 38 percent had five or fewer acts reported.
There were a total of 8,384 offenders identified in the report, with nearly all of them being students who attended school where the offense occurred. These offenses affected 1,071 victims.
Most of the incidents reported were serious enough to report to local law enforcement.
Charts (pdf, 11.1mb) are attached to provide local school district numbers by incident type.
For more information, please contact Dr. Elsie Leak, associate superintendent for Curriculum and School Reform Services, 919.807.3759
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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.