First, it seems that the District does NOT keep track of the records of violent behavior/incidents in any coherent fashion. Could be by design or by ineptness. (I had been looking into getting back the police officer who had previously been assigned to Roosevelt High School and had spoken to the head of security for the District, trying to get a read on what schools do have officers assigned to them. He didn't know which schools had officers, didn't know who used to or how it came about. I was unimpressed to say the least.) The District, obviously, doesn't like this kind of information getting out there. Well, they do have 47,000 students throughout the city, in all age ranges and backgrounds, so there can be no surprise that violence does occur.
From the Times:
"This year, a federal Department of Education grant has allowed the district to implement a new computer system that will combine information about incidents and make it easier for security staff to keep track."
Great but I don't think that lets Security off the hook. A bright group of people could have figured out a system to track these incidents.
So how does a school decide whether to involve police? From the Times,
"School officials have a handbook to help them determine whether they should call the police. According to the handbook, "rape, indecent liberties, exposure, etc.," should be reported to police. It also says school personnel should immediately call police if a student is robbed. It's up to the principal or the principal's designee to decide whether an assault is serious enough to warrant calling police."
A couple of things to note. It is unclear if any principals, vice-principals or security officers have any criminal justice background training. To wit from the Times:
"Tomas Gahan, King County deputy prosecuting attorney and director of the School Violence Program, said school administrators aren't in a position to decide what gets reported to police. Any allegation of sexual assault should be reported.
"Our office's position is, if there's reason to believe that a crime has been committed, then they should report it to police," he said. "It shouldn't be up to them to be the investigator. Are they trained in criminal investigations? Are they trained in sexual assaults?"
For example, Gahan said the school district should have reported last November when a Ballard High School 10th-grader told administrators she had been sexually assaulted the previous spring in a darkened hallway near the school's auditorium. She couldn't tell them which month the incident occurred, officials said, so they filed an internal report but didn't turn the incident over to police."
I do believe it is difficult to figure out an assault. If two kids are pushing and shoving each other, that's a schoolyard fight. But is it assault when someone is bruised? Skin reddened? Blood drawn? I'd have to look up the RCW for the different levels of assault but basically adults can ask for someone to be arrested who attacks them.
Is it just about the worry of getting a kid into the juvenile justice system? That may be part what schools think about before calling the police. It may also be the worry from parents who say, "Why did you call the police over a fight?" From the PI:
"Having the police called doesn't necessarily mean kids will be charged with a crime, said Wyman Yip, chairman of the juvenile unit of the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office. And if they are charged, all first-time misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor offenses are sent to diversion, where charges aren't filed if the juvenile accepts other penalties, such as community service."
Adding to the problem? This from an article in the Chicago Tribune, Sept. 25th, 2007:
"In every state but Idaho, a Tribune analysis of the data
shows, black students are being suspended in numbers greater
than would be expected from their proportion of the student
population. In 21 states-Illinois among them-that
disproportionality is so pronounced that the percentage of
black suspensions is more than double their percentage of the
student body. And on average across the nation, black
students are suspended and expelled at nearly three times the
rate of white students.
No other ethnic group is disciplined at such a high rate, the
federal data show. Hispanic students are suspended and
expelled in almost direct proportion to their populations,
while white and Asian students are disciplined far less.
Yet black students are no more likely to misbehave than other
students from the same social and economic environments,
research studies have found. Some impoverished black children
grow up in troubled neighborhoods and come from broken
families, leaving them less equipped to conform to behavioral
expectations in school. While such socioeconomic factors
contribute to the disproportionate discipline rates,
researchers say that poverty alone cannot explain the
disparities. 'There simply isn't any support for the notion
that, given the same set of circumstances, African-American
kids act out to a greater degree than other kids,' said
Russell Skiba, a professor of educational psychology at
Indiana University whose research focuses on race and
discipline issues in public schools."
I will repeat what I have said elsewhere. Yes, the north end schools have fewer violent incidents but there are no perfectly safe schools or middle/high schools that do not experience problems with drugs/alcohol. To the best of my knowledge, the last murder committed by high school students was by Roosevelt students (off campus). So go figure.