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Unsafe at D.C. Schools

Posted By Bethany Stotts On September 18, 2009 @ 12:00 am In College Prep | No Comments

Heritage Foundation scholars recently received data on the number of police-notified incidents at District of Columbia public schools.

Taking a more systematic look at “crime-related incidents reported to the [D.C. Metropolitan Police Department] MPD during the 2007–2008 school year, excluding the summer months,” an August 28 analysis by David V. Mulhausen, Don Soifer and Dan Lips (Mulhausen et al.) added to the body of knowledge demonstrating how unsafe D.C. schools really are.

“During the 2007– 2008 school year, 3,500 incidences of crime were reported to the Metropolitan Police Department from D.C. public schools: 912 incidences of violent crime, 1,338 incidences of property crimes, and 1,250 other incidences,” they wrote.

“The sound of gunshots was reported in 49 incidents,” and there were 114 aggravated assaults reported, but only one call included a homicide during the 2007-2008 school year.

Among the schools that “appear to have greater problems with school violence and safety” were:

High Schools:

Dunbar Senior High School (14.2 incidents/100 students; “55 calls for aggravated and simple assaults”),
Anacostia Senior High School (14.2/100; 47 calls),

Eastern Senior High School (17.8/100; “38 aggravated and simple assault reports”),

Ballou Senior High (10.4/100; “34 aggravated and simple assault reports” and “the highest incidences of disorderly behavior and robbery incidents involving a gun or knife”),
Coolidge Senior High School (13.5/100; “20 to 29 reports of aggravated and simple assault”),
Spingarn Senior High School (51.3/100; “20 to 29 reports of aggravated and simple assault”), and

Cardozo Senior High School (9.7/100; “”18 reports of aggravated and simple assaults and seven robbery incidents”).

Middle Schools:

Kelly Miller Middle School (17.6 incidents/100 students; “55 crime-related incidents” with “14 reports of aggravated and simple assault” ), and
Shaw Middle School (28.6/100; 44 “crime-related” incidents with 13 reports of “aggravated and simple assault”).

Elementary Schools:

Webb Elementary School (22.0 incidents/100 students; “35 reported incidents of aggravated and simple assaults and six responses for disorderly calls”),

Moten Elementary (21.8/100; “30 aggravated and simple assault incidents”),
Ketchem Elementary (17.6/100; 25 incidents),
Stanton Elementary (13.2/100; 17 incidents), and
McCogney Elementary (17.3/100; 15 incidents).

“Given that schools with more students are expected to have higher levels of crime-related incidents that schools with fewer students, the number of reported incidents per 100 students was calculated based on school enrollment data,” wrote Mulhausen et al. They remind readers that “The data set of 911 call incidents should be interpreted with some caution because it documents calls for assistance in response to some event that a person believed required police attention without proof that an incident or crime had actually occurred.”

“Therefore, the 911 data provided by the Metropolitan Police Department should be analyzed with a clear understanding of what they represent: calls reporting that some incident had occurred at a school.”

It is, however, disturbing to consider the safety of D.C. students in light of the call data. According to the researchers, there was a large disparity in crime at public schools (7.4 total incidents/100 students), charter schools (0.39/100) and private schools (1.35/100).

Virginia Walden Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice, told this correspondent that 216 D.C. students were first told they had been awarded D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (OSP) scholarships. Then, two weeks later they received a mailed notification that these scholarships were canceled, even though the money had already been appropriated for this purpose, she said. (Walden Ford is also a Visiting Fellow at Heritage).

Members of SaveThe216 rallied outside of the Department of Education building in Washington, D.C. on August 20.

Mulhausen et al. noted in their study that the No Child Left Behind Act requiring states to adopt policies allowing students attending “persistently dangerous” schools to transfer to “a safe public school within the local education agency, including a charter school.”

States are required to “complete identification of persistently dangerous schools in time to permit local education agencies (LEAs) to offer, at least 14 days before the start of the 2003-2004 school year, and each school year thereafter, the required transfer option to students attending persistently dangerous schools,” stated the DOE in 2003.

“Despite this requirement, it is unclear whether the District of Columbia Public Schools has identified which schools are persistently dangerous or has offered eligible students the option of transferring to different public schools in accordance with federal guidelines,” wrote Mulhausen et al.

However, “Since the 911 data do not reveal the number of officially reported crimes as defined by the D.C. Code, we are not in a position to determine whether any of these D.C. public schools should be listed as persistently dangerous under D.C. and federal law.”

As for the 216 students denied scholarships, the researchers assert that “For students who are assigned to attend the following schools, the loss of their scholarship will result in attending schools that have reported many incidents of violence and crime” including 5 who will attend Anacostia Senior HIgh School, three at Ballou Senior High, three at Dunbar Senior High, 11 at Eastern Senior High and six at Moten Elementary School.

Bethany Stotts is a staff writer at Accuracy in Academia.


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