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Drugs more of a problem than weapons for school district

Guns in the schools brings immediate outrage, but, according to statistics, maybe drugs and alcohol should worry parents more.

In the third annual California Safe Schools Assessment, Lake Tahoe Unified School District reported 66 drug and alcohol offenses, compared to only 10 possession of a weapon crimes. The weapon total includes knives as well as guns.

The school safety report, collected by the state department of education, suggests that while property crimes and crimes against people are declining, drug and alcohol offenses remain constant.



“I think this community would agree that our largest problem to assess with our teens is drugs and alcohol,” said Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis. “To address this we are exploring options of establishing a community day school geared toward students suspended for those reasons. It would a full day program with substance abuse therapy combined. The recidivism rate of those kinds of problems is very high.”

Davis said the present community school model doesn’t include therapy. Davis said the 66 offenses during the 1997-98 school year were for alcohol or marijuana exclusively.




The California report released this week contains data from all public school districts and county offices of education. The data is self-reported by each district through a standardized reporting form.

Davis said that many districts, especially ones from larger urban areas, don’t report crimes as meticulously as Lake Tahoe Unified.

“It skews the numbers,” Davis said. “Some of the larger districts’ numbers are so far off the norm that you have to wonder about their validity.”

Lake Tahoe Unified was well above the state rate in drug and alcohol offenses and crimes against persons for two years in a row. Davis claimed this was partly due to a lack of uniform reporting.

Jean Scott, education programs consultant for the California Safe Schools office, disagreed with Davis.

“We have a variety of methods that we use to check for accuracy,” Scott said. “We run a cross-check between the reports and the number of student suspensions. We have determined that 78 percent of drug and alcohol offenses were reported accurately to us.”

Scott added that most of the districts that underreported were small therefore, causing little impact on the statewide data.

“It’s really to the advantage of the district to report accurately because it gives them an accurate picture of what’s going on at their campuses,” Scott said.

Davis said Lake Tahoe Unified’s numbers are an accurate representation.

“We’re confident that our data is right on target,” Davis said.

The district had 55 battery incidents, three assaults with a deadly weapon, one sex offense, and 22 property crimes. The estimated cost to the district was $12,375.


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