Wednesday, November 29, 2006

What Does More Data on School Violence Really Mean for Schools?

Source: NASSP

Legislation introduced by Congress last week aims to help administrators make better decisions about school safety but could leave schools vulnerable to additional sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

The Accurate Crime Trends (ACT) for Schools Act (H.R. 6322) would require the attorney general to determine the feasibility of expanding the National Incident-Based Reporting System to include information on the occurrence of school-related crime in elementary and secondary schools. According to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), the NIBRS would use existing crime reporting infrastructures to collect specific K–12 crime data and would not place any new requirements or burdens on school leaders. She argues that principals need timely data on real incidents of school crime to identify trends and develop meaningful strategies to prevent school violence.

NCLB requires that students be allowed to transfer to another public school if their current school is found to be “persistently dangerous” or if they are the victim of a violent crime while at school. Principals must collect and self report a certain amount of data under the Uniform Management Information and Reporting Systems requirements of the law, but there is no federal system to report and track data on school crimes at the K–12 level.

The recent string of school shootings has led federal officials and school safety experts to further examine the Unsafe School Choice Option. In general, they’ve found that the law punishes schools that already have violence-prevention policies in place, diverts state and local officials’ attention away from their own safety initiatives, and produces few real results.

Will more data on school-based crime help or harm our efforts to ensure that schools are safe and secure? How is labeling a school "persistently dangerous" really going to help the principal protect his or her staff members and students? These are the questions that NASSP hopes you can help us answer by posting your comments below. 

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