THE STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT / THE UNIVERSITY OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK / ALBANY, NY 12234

 

TO:

EMSC-VESID Committee

 

FROM:

James A. Kadamus

SUBJECT:

Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting and Criteria for Identification of Persistently Dangerous Schools

 

DATE:

June 10, 2005

 

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

 

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

Summary

 

Issue for Discussion

 

          Do the Regents need more information concerning the criteria that will be used to identify persistently dangerous schools?

 

Reason(s) for Consideration

 

          Review of policy in implementing federal legislation (Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO), section 9532 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) as amended by the No Child Left behind Act) and State legislation (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education (SAVE) Act).

 

Proposed Handling

 

          This question will come before the EMSC-VESID Committee on June 20, 2005.  This will provide background information relating to a proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations that will come to the Committee for discussion in September.

 

Procedural History

 

          The full Board of Regents discussed Unsafe School Choice provisions of No Child Left Behind Act and criteria for the identification of persistently dangerous schools in June 2003 and adopted amendments to Commissionerís Regulations to comply with the provisions of federal and State legislation.

 

Background Information

 

          The Department has continued to refine and improve its violent and disruptive incidents reporting and data collection system that is used by school buildings and districts. In an effort to ensure that students are provided an opportunity to learn in safe school environments, the Department will expand the criteria that are used in identifying potentially persistently dangerous school buildings through a School Violence Index and continue development of a Supportive Learning Environment Index that would provide information about the conditions of school buildings that impact the learning process.

 

Recommendation

 

The Board of Regents should determine if it concurs with the direction the Department is taking in the reporting of violent and disruptive incidents and in identifying persistently dangerous schools. 

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

          The Department will apply the new criteria in identifying potentially persistently dangerous schools during July.  Staff will prepare a proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations for discussion by the EMSC-VESID Committee in September 2005.  The Department will also provide staff development and technical assistance to school districts and other affected educational programs during fall 2005.

 

         

 

 

Attachment


Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting and Criteria for Identification of Persistently Dangerous Schools

 

Background

 

Project SAVE (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act) was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed into law by Governor George E. Pataki as Chapter 181 of the Laws of 2000 on July 24, 2000, to address issues of school safety and violence prevention.  Among other things, the SAVE legislation added a new section 2802 of the Education Law requiring the establishment of the Uniform Violent Incident Reporting System (UVIRS).

 

The Board of Regents, in response to the legislation, amended Section 100.2 (gg) of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education in 2001 to establish the uniform violent incident reporting system. The regulation was developed in consultation with the Division of Criminal Justice Services and with legislative and executive staff.  The regulation used definitions of crimes taken from the Penal Law and required schools to record information on violent and disruptive incidents beginning with the 2001-02 school year.  Each school is required to complete and maintain a record on each reportable violent or disruptive incident.  In addition, each school must provide a summary of these incidents by using a Summary Form for Reporting Violent and Disruptive Incidents that is submitted as part of the Basic Educational Data System (BEDS). Each school district and BOCES is required to include a summary of the data in its School District or BOCES Report Card.

 

The Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO), Section 9532 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA), as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act, requires each state receiving funds under ESEA to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that students who attend a persistently dangerous public school be allowed to attend a safe public school within the local educational agency (LEA). As a condition of receiving ESEA funds, states must certify in writing to the Secretary that they are in compliance with these requirements.  To implement this federal requirement, Chapter 425 of the Laws of 2002 added a new subdivision 7 to section 2802 of the Education Law on unsafe school choice.  This statute requires the Commissioner to annually determine which public elementary and secondary schools are persistently dangerous, based on data submitted through the UVIRS over a period prescribed in regulations, but not less than two years.  Section 120.5 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education, provides that schools shall be identified as persistently dangerous pursuant to guidelines based on a minimum of two years of data from the UVIRS. 

 

Use of Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting Information

 

Information received from the UVIRS is used for the following purposes:

 

       Preparation of the annual SAVE report that is submitted to the Governor and Legislature.

       Identification of persistently dangerous buildings and districts.

 

       Preparation of the U.S. Department of Education Guns-Free School Act report.

 

Steps Taken to Improve the Quality of Information

 

The Department is committed to improving the quality and reliability of the data on violent or disruptive incidents reported by school districts and BOCES through the UVIRS. The first two years of UVIRS data collection resulted in data of questionable reliability and usefulness in comparing the prevalence of violent and disruptive incidents in schools and school districts across the State. A number of factors contributed to this result including a lack of clarity of operational definitions and a common standard for reporting incidents.

 

The Department has implemented revised procedures to correct these two areas of concern and will propose amendments to Commissionerís Regulations to incorporate those changes. Definitions of violent or disruptive incidents that involve the most subjective judgment have been changed to reduce disparities in reporting across school districts by requiring that only offenses that result in the referring of disciplinary charges against the perpetrator or a referral to law enforcement be reported. Changes have also been made to reduce the risk of over-reporting or under-reporting weapons and drug incidents.

 

SED and the New York State Center for School Safety provided a series of staff development and technical assistance activities to help staff and administrators understand new reporting requirements through video-conferencing, video-streaming, regional presentations, use of web-based technical assistance tools, and telephone conversations. 

 

To address some of the problems with the reliability of the reported data, the Department has communicated a very clear message to school superintendents to provide the leadership necessary to develop systems to collect and report school and district level data accurately and in compliance with federal and State legislation and Commissionerís Regulations.

 

Identification of Persistently Dangerous Schools

         

In the past two years, New York State has determined that a school is identified as being a persistently dangerous public school if the school has two successive years of weapons incidents to enrollment ratio that exceeds three percent. The use of these criteria resulted in two schools being identified as persistently dangerous for the 2003-04 school year and no schools for the 2004-05 school year. 

 

          The Commissioner in 2004-05 announced  ďwatch listsĒ that identified schools that have exceeded two percent weapons incidents to enrollment for two successive years. The Commissioner required these schools to submit additional evidence to show that the conditions in the school do not unreasonably threaten the safety of students, that it has taken appropriate action or actions to improve safety at the school, or other such evidence in support of its position that an Incident Reduction Plan is not warranted.

 

Establishment of School Violence Index

 

The Department is broadening a wider array of incidents to be used in the identification of a school as persistently dangerous.  Violent incidents such as serious sexual offenses and assaults resulting in serious physical injury will be included.  We will use a School Violence Index (SVI) to designate schools as persistently dangerous beginning with 2003-04 school data.

 

The SVI will use incidents that are acknowledged by the Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) and the Department as serious offenses that threaten the safety and well being of students. Violent criminal offenses are actions or behaviors that:

 

1.       Inflict a serious physical injury;

2.       Include sex offense(s) that involve forcible compulsion; or

3.       Involves the use or threatened use of a deadly weapon.

 

The specific categories for the offenses to be included in the SVI are homicide, serious sexual offense, robbery, assault resulting in serious physical injury, arson, kidnapping, and incidents involving the use of a weapon. The SVI will use at least three factors:  the seriousness of offenses, the frequency of occurrences, and the enrollment of the school building. Staff will run data models to establish specific criteria for each of these criteria and provide an update to the Board of Regents in March 2006.

 

Transitional Year

 

Designation of a persistently dangerous school or district requires two years of successive data.  Because of the problems with the 2002-03 data that have previously been identified and the extensive changes made in the manner in which data was reported commencing with the 2003-04 school year, the Department is proposing to establish a transitional standard by using new data reported for 2003-04 school year and data for the 2004-05 school year. The transitional standard will be a ratio of violent incidents to enrollment in a school that exceeds a threshold to be established by the Commissioner, and will be based upon the number of incidents involving use or threatened use of weapons, serious sexual offenses, robbery, assault with serious physical injury, arson and kidnapping.  In other words, the transitional standard will be based on data from the same categories of incidents that will be used in the school violence index in the future. The Department will use 2003-04 data to make preliminary decisions as to which schools may be designated as potentially persistently dangerous. Those schools will be required to submit 2004-05 data to determine if their two-year incident rates continue to meet the transitional standard. Schools determined to be potentially persistently dangerous after examination of the two years of data will be provided one last opportunity to submit additional data to the Commissioner before a final determination is made that a school or district is persistently dangerous.

 

School Violence and Supportive Learning Environment Index

 

Information regarding the introduction of the new violent and disruptive incident reporting requirements was first provided to school district officials in February 2005.  Considerable staff development was and will continue to be offered to district staff to improve the accuracy of the 2005-06 school year data. In 2006, the Department expects that the SVI will be the tool for identifying schools that have serious conditions impeding the learning process. However, identifying very dangerous environments is not sufficient. The Department proposes to establish a second index that provides information about the conditions of school buildings that impact the learning process.  The Supportive Learning Environment Index (SLEI) is grounded in research, supported by public engagement, and provides significant information regarding factors that enhance the learning process. Department staff has completed significant work on the development of the index criteria. They have reviewed the research, engaged front-line teachers and administrators, consulted with researchers, and asked for comments by teachers and administrators working in alternative education learning environments.

 

The Department anticipates being able to provide school officials and the public with information regarding the academic progress of the students in a particular school building and the environment in the building that potentially impedes or enhances the learning process. The combined information provides a very powerful tool for administrators, policymakers, and school board members in ensuring that supportive learning environments exist for continuous program improvement. We have scheduled a more detailed discussion on the SLEI at the March 2006 meeting of the EMSC-VESID Committee.