An investigation has revealed that schools in Colorado are not reporting their violence records to the state to avoid being labeled as Persistently Dangerous Schools (PDS).
7NEWS and The Denver Post have released a joint investigation that discovered untruthful or misleading school violence reports are not unusual. The lack of reports is part of a system riddled with loopholes, cloudy rules, and loose oversight. The practice that Colorado PDS may be partially to blame.
The Colorado Department of Education (CDE) demands that schools report incidents in different 12 categories. These categories range from “1st Degree Assaults” to “Other Violations of Code of Conduct,” but less than half of the categories count towards the PDS grouping. Not once has a school in Colorado been labelled as a PDS, reports Zahira Torres for The Denver Post.
If the Colorado Department of Education listed the top five most violent categories in its own guidance to schools, including the categories of “3rd Degree Assault” and “Dangerous Weapons,” most schools would have a much greater violence rate on paper, a study of statewide data, according to 7NEWS.
However, the state is not holding school districts to account for accurately telling it about the crimes committed within school boundaries because of the loose oversight, reports Keli Rabon for 7NEWS. A
ll that the CDE looks for are big changes in a school’s reported amount of violence from year to year. This more or less places school districts on the honor system; the CDE has never visited a school or district to make sure that violence and crimes are accurately reported.
“The districts don’t randomly select what behavior is coded,” said Judith Martinez, CDE’s Director of Student Engagement & Dropout Prevention. “They have some training in it.”
Martinez also said that CDE staff is on hand to help schools in determining how to categorize specific incidents. However, she did not know in how many situations the schools or districts have really asked for help. She stated that correct reporting of violence is the district’s role. Rabon quotes her as saying:
“It’s really a local issue,” Martinez said. “Our role as a state is not to mobilize the action for the school districts.”
For example, Desiree Richie’s son, Diavian, who is 12, has been in many fights at Bruce Randolph School in Colorado and has even made another child bleed. However, the record shows no assaults at his school, even though the safety and discipline reports are state mandated. Rabon quotes Richie as saying:
“I think all violence should be reported,” Richie said. “Because one lick could lead to somebody actually losing their life.”
Richie said her son frequently had to fight back to defend himself and was always the target of constant bullying. Behavior records from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 demonstrate that he was disciplined or suspended for fist fights on several different days, which the school categorized as “Detrimental Behavior.”