Officials question legitimacy of school crime statistics
Crime on Lake Tahoe Unified School District campuses has slightly increased based on last year’s statistics, but according to district officials the definition of some crimes has changed.
The California Safe Schools Assessment shows reported crimes in all California public schools, school programs, school districts and county offices of education.
The Tahoe Daily Tribune and the school district are usually provided with a comparative study of all districts in California. This year, neither office received a copy of the 2000-01 statewide assessment but Mandated Cost Systems, Inc. conducted a study based on Lake Tahoe Unified’s reported citings for criminal activity.
Historically, many districts may not report every crime, thus compromising the assessment’s legitimacy, said LTUSD Assistant Superintendent Barbara Davis.
“Some districts may be underreporting and the reliability of the data being reported by school districts determines the validity of the report,” Davis said. “We report everything. We have training each year to verify what things we should be reporting.”
This year, Lake Tahoe Unified School District reported 70 drug or alcohol offenses, 40 cases of battery, three sex offenses, eight citings for possession of a weapon and 20 property crimes. Last year’s numbers in the same respective categories were 59, 18, one, three and 14.
There were no reported assaults with a deadly weapon, homicides or incidents of robbery or extortion either year.
The increase in battery citations is partially due to a change this year in what the assessment deems battery, Davis said. In prior years, a bloody nose or trip to the hospital warranted the title of battery. This year, the slightest shove or mutual conflict should be reported, she said.
“We have very few cases where there’s medical attention required,” Davis said. “It’s a very, very isolated incident where you have a child who is being (beaten) by another child.”
Davis said the majority of batteries reported by Lake Tahoe Unified for the 2000-01 assessment were at the elementary school level.
“Personally, not knowing what other districts are reporting, I’m just impressed by the lack of conflict at the high school level and the types of conflict management programs at the middle school and high school,” Davis said. “I think those are really great programs. I think by the time students get to the high school level, they’re going to size up the situation before they get involved (in physical violence). That’s my personal opinion.”
The numbers listed in the California Safe Schools Assessment are reflective of citings, not situations, Davis said. For example, if 10 students were involved in one fight, the district would report 10 citings of battery, rather than one incident.
“You’ve got to remember, if you have one big brouhaha, with eight or 10 kids involved, that’s going to skew your numbers,” Davis said. “The report doesn’t show the number of incidents. It shows the number of citings.”
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