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New York Auditors: Schools Failing to Report Violence

New York Auditors: Schools Failing to Report Violence
State Comptroller said schools must do better at reporting violence.

New York's public schools fail to report many violent and disruptive incidents like assaults and weapons brought onto their property and misclassify others as less serious events, state auditors reported Tuesday.

   "Unfortunately, it appears that many schools are failing to live up to the reporting requirements, leaving parents in the dark about violence and other incidents that affect the classroom learning environment," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. The state law passed in 2000 requires reporting. For schools listed as "persistently dangerous," parents are supposed to be notified and can transfer their children to a safer school if one is available.

   DiNapoli auditors' reviewed seven schools outside New York City from the 2011-2012 school year. They identified 935 unreported incidents including assaults, bullying, drug use, weapons and burglary. That showed an underreporting of 29 percent of the 3,175 total reportable incidents they identified.

   In response to an audit draft, the Education Department said last year it was taking steps to improve school compliance.

   According to auditors, East High School in Rochester reported only 256 of 769 incidents, or about a third of them, including two sex offenses and 11 weapons brought to school. Schenectady High School failed to report 290 of 1,824 incidents, including an arson and 11 cases of drug possession.

   Also, Fulton Junior High School reported 289 of 368 incidents; Castleton Academy High School of Oceanside in Nassau County didn't report seven of 15 incidents; the Institute of Technology at Syracuse Central failed to report 26 of 163 incidents, including 11 cases of intimidation, harassment, menacing or bullying; and Pleasantville High School in Westchester County failed to report 20 of 36 incidents, or more than half of them.

   Burgard Vocational High School in Buffalo used the wrong reporting method, but auditors said that review also showed underreporting.

   In her August response to the draft audit, Deputy Education Secretary Sharon Cates-Williams wrote that the department shared the concerns about reporting accuracy and had met its statutory obligation to issue notices to schools on the persistently dangerous list in the 2014-2015 school year and would submit its required annual report to the governor, Legislature and Board of Regents.

   Education officials were reviewing training materials and guidance to schools and providing technical help to high-risk schools, and a task force was already working on school safety issues including reporting, she wrote.