State Education Department

Reporting of Violent and Disruptive Incidents by Public Schools

The Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act, which became effective in July 2000, requires school districts to report certain information each year to the State Education Department about the violent and disruptive incidents that occurred in their schools during the past year. The Department is required to assess the reported information and determine whether any schools should be designated as persistently dangerous because of their violent and disruptive incidents. The Department is also expected to summarize the information in an annual report about school violence to the Governor, the Legislature, and the Board of Regents.

We visited a representative sample of high schools and found that, at a majority of the schools, at least one-third of the violent and disruptive incidents documented in the schoolsí records were not reported to the Department. At several schools, more than 80 percent of the documented incidents were not reported, and in a number of instances, the most serious types of incidents were unreported, such as sexual offenses and incidents involving the use of a weapon. For example, at one high school, 780 of the 924 documented incidents (84.4 percent) in the 2003-04 school year were not reported to the Department, and the unreported incidents included two sexual offenses, 11 incidents involving the use of a weapon, one incident involving the possession of a weapon. Based on the results of our work, we conclude there is a significant risk that the level of violence at other high schools across the State is similarly understated and the Departmentís annual reports on school violence do not convey the full seriousness of the situation to the Governor, Legislature and Board of Regents. We recommend the Department more actively monitor the reporting process through site visits to selected districts.

If a school is designated as persistently dangerous, it must develop an Incident Reduction Plan and the parents of the children attending the school are to be given the option of sending their children to another school in the district, if one is available. We found that schools meeting the Departmentís criteria for persistent danger may not always be so designated, because serious incidents at the schools may not be fully and accurately reported. Also, schools that are at risk of being designated as persistently dangerous may manipulate their reported incident data to avoid the designation, and the Department has not instituted controls that could prevent this kind of manipulation. For example, in 2005, six schools avoided being designated as persistently dangerous by revising previously reported incident data. The Department does not require that such revisions be supported by documentation and does not visit the schools to verify questionable submissions against school records. Because of this lack of verification, in 2005, as many as 14 at-risk schools were able to avoid being designated as persistently dangerous. If the intent of the SAVE Act is to be fully realized, significant improvements are needed in the Departmentís process for identifying persistently dangerous schools.

For a complete copy of Report 2005-S-38 click here.
For a copy of the 90-day response click here.
For a copy of the associated follow-up report click here.