Seraph Response to the Recent School Crime Reporting Issues in Schools

For many years, state and federal educational organizations and our own firm have been frustrated by the fact that some schools have under reported or inaccurately reported crimes and offenses. Long before NCLB was made law, data collection from schools was always problematic. In our 16 years as an education safety firm, we have found that there are four critical problems that contribute to this problem.

1. SOFTWARE ISSUES:

Current software for incident reporting is flawed. Most reporting software used by schools does not allow for the proper classification of an incident. For example: Two students have a fight. In the first few seconds of the physical confrontation, one student strikes the other in the face with their fist. Towards the end of the fight, the other student picks up a weapon and strikes back with it. With most programs, the school can only classify the event with one description, so school officials usually choose to categorize this type of incident by the lesser of two evils, a fistfight not a fight involving a weapon.

2. LACK OF KNOWLEDGE:

When administrators and school staff are questioned about the laws in their respective states regarding child welfare and violence only a small number can accurately explain specific offenses for specific acts. For example, when our staff asks principals and educators about the age of consent law in New York State most of the time we receive three answers 16, 17 or 18. A lack of understanding of the law by school officials is adding to this problem.

In addition, many schools do not know about their specific problems. They report what they see not what is actually happening. This lack of knowing ALL of the issues comes from a lack of assessment, training and planning. All schools must have a thorough assessment of security issues within the context of management structure. How well is the building managed, how well are the students managed, how well are vendors managed, how well are visitors managed and how well are staff members managed? These are the questions that need to be answered to truly understand the extent of the problems within a school or district.

3. ETHICAL SLOP:

Because of current state / federal laws and public pressure, there is no motive to be honest as an administrator or school board member about the negative / criminal issues in your district. For example if the district down the road is fudging the numbers and you accurately report yours, as a district you will look mismanaged and they will look well managed.

By being honest about the incidences in your schools, you bring the wrath of state and federal agencies upon yourself or more importantly the parents in your community. An uneven playing field creates opportunity to cheat.

Dr. Steven Levitt has researched this phenomenon in schools and wrote about it in Chapter 1 of his book “Freakonomics” 2005 [New York Times bestseller] In the current state of affairs, the personal ethics of the administrators and board members is the only thing that protects the district or school from lying about their numbers.

4. LACK OF SOLUTIONS:

Currently few programs have effectively prevented school related violence or negative behavior by students. Primarily because they do not address the underlying issues of negative parental behavior, truancy, negative cliques, female aggression, negative behavior of staff, policies failures and inconsistent enforcement of the rules by staff. Hiding the “real story” in a district becomes part of the survival process of individuals and their careers.