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

 

 

 

 

TO:

EMSC-VESID Committee

FROM:

Jean C. Stevens

SUBJECT:

Statewide Compliance with the Uniform Violent Incident Reporting System

DATE:

March 16, 2006

STRATEGIC GOAL:

Goals 1 and 2

AUTHORIZATION(S):

 

 

SUMMARY

 

Issue for Discussion

 

Does the Board of Regents concur with the approach being undertaken to ensure statewide compliance with the uniform violent incident reporting system?

 

Reason(s) for Consideration

 

Required by State and federal statute.
         

Proposed Handling

 

This question will come before the Regents EMSC-VESID Committee on March 20, 2006.

 

Procedural History

 

Since June 2005, a series of reports have been submitted to the Regents concerning the reporting of violent and disruptive incidents and the criteria for identifying persistently dangerous schools.  A proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations that establishes the technical criteria and methodology for reporting offenses to the uniform violent incident reporting system that would be used consistently by all school districts throughout the State was submitted to the Committee for discussion in November.  The proposed amendment is before the Committee for action in March.  The proposed regulation does not address the standard that will be used in identifying persistently dangerous schools -- it provides for computation of a school violence index but does not require its use in identifying persistently dangerous schools.  The identification of persistently dangerous schools involves policy issues that go beyond the technical methodology used to collect data, and staff proposes to submit those issues to the Committee for discussion at the June 2006 meeting.

 

Background Information

 

The attached report serves as a companion item to the proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations relating to the uniform violent incident reporting system.  It provides the legal requirements we must comply with and a brief chronology of reports to the Regents.  The report also identifies policy issues relating to designating schools as potentially persistently dangerous, provides the status of current issues and proposes next steps.

 

Recommendation

 

We recommend that the Committee approve the companion item on the proposed amendment to Section 100.2 (gg) of the Commissionerís Regulations relating to the technical criteria and methodology for reporting offenses to the uniform violent incident reporting system  as an important first step in enabling the Department to collect comparable data from all school districts and ensure statewide compliance.  We also seek the Committeeís consensus on the approach the Department will take to address policy issues that need to be resolved in the future.

 

Timetable for Implementation

 

Staff will report back to the Committee in June 2006 on the proposed use of the school violence index for identifying persistently dangerous schools and on policy issues requiring further discussion by the Regents.

 

 

Attachment


Statewide Compliance With the Uniform Violent Incident Reporting System

 

Legal Requirements

 

       In 2000, Project SAVE (Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act) legislation required the establishment of the uniform violent incident reporting system.  The Department consulted with the Division of Criminal Justice Services and with executive and legislative staff to develop an amendment to Commissionerís Regulations that 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.  A summary of that data must be submitted to the Department as part of the Basic Educational Data System (BEDS) and each school district and BOCES must include a summary of the data on their report card.

 

       The Unsafe School Choice Option under No Child Left Behind requires each state to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring students who attend a persistently dangerous public school to be allowed to attend a safe public school.  States must certify to the U.S. Education Department that they are in compliance with these requirements.  To implement the federal requirement, Education Law was amended to require the Commissioner of Education to annually determine which public schools are persistently dangerous, based on two years of data submitted through the uniform violent incident reporting system.

 

Report to Governor and Legislature

 

       In January 2005, the Department submitted the required report on Project SAVE to the Governor and Legislature that identified limitations of the data and recommended corrective action, including changes in the definitions of violent or disruptive incidents, in decisional rules and procedures, and in the display and reporting of data, and also recommended the establishment of sanctions for failure of school districts to report the data.  The latter recommendation requires a statutory amendment.  The Department proposed bill language last year that did not pass, and will again do so this year.

 

Reports to the Board of Regents

 

       In June 2005, Department staff introduced the concept of establishing a School Violence Index to expand the criteria used in identifying potentially dangerous schools and in developing a Supportive Learning Environment Index that would provide information about the conditions of school buildings that impact the learning process.  The Department also proposed using a transitional standard for data reported for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years in identifying potentially dangerous schools that provided for a ratio of violent incidents to enrollment and was 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.  These categories of incidents would be used in the School Violence Index in the future. 

 

The Department applied the new criteria to identify potentially persistently dangerous schools during July 2005 and developed a proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations to clarify the criteria for consistent use across the State.

 

       In September 2005, in an offline item to the Board, another copy of the June report was provided as well as the press release on the identification of five potentially persistently dangerous schools.  The press release also noted that the Department recognized New York Cityís efforts to create safer schools through the early identification and improvement of 11 Impact Schools and would work with the New York City Department of Education to resolve any differences in collecting and reporting information.

 

       In November 2005, staff submitted for discussion the proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations to establish  the methodology for reporting for the uniform violent incident reporting system and to define more concisely reportable offenses so that data is submitted consistently statewide.  The proposed amendment also establishes a School Violence Index that would beavailable for use  in 2006-2007 to analyze data for the 2005-06 school year that would be weighted to reflect the most serious violent incidents, including homicide, serious sexual offense, robbery, assault resulting in serious physical injury, arson, kidnapping, and incidents involving the possession, use or threatened use of a weapon.  The expansion of categories of incidents was responsive to the Regents concern that persistently dangerous schools were being identified only on criteria involving the use of weapons.

 

The proposed amendment to Commissionerís Regulations was revised based on public comment received and is before the Regents for approval in March.

 

       In January 2006, staff identified a number of policy issues related to the designation of persistently dangerous schools and suggested potential actions to address them.  The policy issues were:

 

       The timely, accurate and consistent reporting of data by school districts.

       The establishment of an incentive/sanction system that promotes the accurate reporting of incidents and effective interventions in schools.

       The proposed use of a School Violence Index in identifying persistently dangerous schools, including the identification and weighting of incidents used.

       The elimination of reporting bias due to large or small enrollments.

       The process to determine which schools that have been preliminarily identified should be designated as persistently dangerous.

       The support to be given to schools participating in violence reduction initiatives and those identified as persistently dangerous.


 

Consultation with the New York City Department of Education Concerning Compliance with the Uniform Violent Incident Reporting System (UVIRS)

 

       The New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) has informed the Department that its current operational procedures for reporting incidents prevents it from providing the Department with all the information required under the UVIRS. Specifically, NYCDOE asserts that, while its collaboration with the New York Police Department gives NYCDOE data regarding criminal incidents in schools of the highest integrity, it is unable to provide information regarding both numbers of offenders and victims involved in violent offenses or information regarding disruptive but non-criminal incidents. Department staff meets monthly with NYCDOE staff and the New York City Police Department to better understand the concerns associated with its reporting system and to devise strategies to align New York City reporting with the rest of the State.  NYCDOE has told Department staff that it is doing everything possible to get SED data, including redirecting staff to work on this issue and authorizing overtime.  However, NYCDOE has not yet submitted the required data for the annual Project SAVE report, which was due February 10, 2006 to the Governor and the Legislature, or text for inclusion in the annual report that explains the reason for its lack of compliance with this statutory reporting requirement. Department staff continues to press for a date by which the data will be submitted. 

 

       New York City has raised a number of objections to the UVIRS, including:  the definitions deviate from the Penal Law, the reporting of incidents that occur during out-of-state school functions, the inclusion of bullying and intimidation in the same category as harassment and menacing, etc.  The UVIRS system is a school-based, not criminal justice-based system and part of the legislative intent underlying the UVIRS is to collect data on disruptive incidents that are not necessarily criminal offenses.  New York City claims that, since its system is incompatible with UVIRS, it cannot at present submit data on disruptive incidents and data on the types of weapons used by offense because the Police Department does not collect the data.

 

Status of Current Issues

 

Proposed Amendment to Commissionerís Regulations.  The proposed amendment that establishes the methodology for reporting and more concise definitions of reportable offenses is submitted for approval by the Regents in March 2006.  The proposed amendment is responsive to the Regents request to expand the categories of incidents on which schools must report.  It further makes it more feasible to ensure uniform and comparable reports from throughout the State with respect to the type of incidents reported and the actions taken in response to such incidents.  Definitions of violent or disruptive incidents that involve the most subjective judgment have been changed to reduce disparities in reporting across school districts and changes have also been made to reduce the risk of over-reporting or under-reporting weapons and drug incidents.  Adoption of the proposed amendment also provides increased leverage to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure all school districts and BOCES comply with its requirements.

 


This past fall, school buildings were asked to submit data on a form that uses the more concise definitions in the proposed amendment.  The form has been completed by 3,000 school buildings across the State and there has been minimal or no confusion in its use.  The guidance provided to districts in completing the form has been deemed to be user friendly.  We expect that there will be further improvement in the 2004-05 data provided by school districts.

 

Timely, Accurate and Consistent Reporting of Data by School Districts.  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.  An extensive staff development initiative will continue that is targeted at providing school district staff with the necessary information required to report violent and disruptive incidents accurately and thoroughly.

 

Department staff continues to meet monthly with NYCDOE staff and the New York City Police Department to resolve issues relating to the reporting of data to align it with the rest of the State.  The NYCDOE had agreed to focus on the submission of 2004-05 data that the Department needs for designating school as potentially persistently dangerous and for inclusion in the annual report to the Governor and Legislature.  We have not yet received the data.  Compliance with the law and regulations will continue to be the focus of the monthly meetings mentioned above, and will also be given serious attention with higher level staff in both the Department and NYCDOE as well as through direct discussions with the Chancellor.

 

          Annual Reports to the Governor and Legislature.  The Department cannot complete the 2003-04 and 2004-05 annual reports without the data or an explanation by NYCDOE of why it is unable to submit the data.  The Regents would need to consider the implications of identifying schools as persistently dangerous based on the full range of offenses included in the school violence index in 2006-07 if the New York City data is not available.  As a result, Department staff might need to recommend to the Regents that SED go back to a standard based solely on weapons offenses as an alternative to using a school violence index that may not be able to make accurate determinations about the status of New York City schools.

 

          Resolution of Policy Issues.  The policy issues identified in January 2006 have not been thoroughly discussed by the Regents.  As noted under Next Steps, we propose to bring them back to the Regents in June with proposed actions to address them.

 

Next Steps

 

          In June 2006, Department staff will submit a comprehensive report on implementation of the School Violence Index and the establishment of an incentive/sanction system that promotes accurate reporting of incidents and establishes consequences for schools and districts that do not comply with the requirements under UVIRS.  In addition, Department staff will propose concrete actions to address the remaining policy issues identified in January 2006, including the identification and weighting of incidents used in designating a school as potentially persistently dangerous.