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Tuesday, December 13, 2016

New York State Education Officials Change the Reporting of Violence In Schools

Here's what I believe: changing the number of categories and the definitions of violence doesn't touch what is really wrong with the procedures for reporting violence in schools.

Principals still will not want to expose themselves by submitting any reports on the students who misbehave, because reporting that you have bad students is bad for your buck, reputation in the neighborhood, sponsorships, and alot more.

On the other side of the coin, pinning a violent event committed by "bad" students, on a teacher instead, gives you many opportunities for acclaim by the media, parents and anti-tenure organizations.

See something wrong with this picture?

The solution is to take away from in-house personnel, including administrators, the right to rule on the reporting of violence, and give any staff member the right, with immunity, to report assaults, crimes and or damages to people or property to a special division of the police, who must investigate without interference from principals trying to coverup their mistakes and their "little angels" (sometimes gang members well known to the community).

And for pete's sake, get everyone covered by Workers' compensation. Stop principals from arbitrarily and randomly denying LODI (line-of-duty-injury).

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice
Editor, Inside 3020-a Teacher Trials

New York Changes the Way It Keeps Tabs on 

School Violence

PS 191 in Manhattan was on the state’s “persistently dangerous” list at the start of the 2015-16
 school year, but not in the current year

 New York State education officials voted Tuesday to change the way the state tracks school violence, hoping to improve a system that has been called confusing and inaccurate.

New York State education officials voted Tuesday to change the way the state tracks school violence, hoping to improve a system that has been called confusing and inaccurate.
But because the system will continue to rely on schools to report data, it may not offer a clearer picture of how dangerous the schools might be.
The old Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting system, or Vadir, tracked offenses across 20 categories, including homicide, kidnapping, bomb threat and riot. Schools reported episodes based on guidelines from the state.
Many called the categories confusing, and said those who were reporting the data were not always adequately trained to determine if something was “criminal mischief,” for example, or to tease out the difference between “burglary” and “larceny.”
Under the new regulations, approved by the Board of Regents, the state’s highest educational authority, state officials have whittled the categories to nine and tried to clarify definitions so schools report episodes more accurately.
A Vadir score can be enormously consequential because if a school has a certain level of episodes two years in a row, it can be labeled “persistently dangerous,” a designation the federal government requires states to make, and one that means students who request a transfer must be offered a place at another school in their district.
“If the purpose of Vadir reporting is to identify the most persistently dangerous schools, then let’s get the most violent incidents being submitted, and not things like minor altercations,” said Renee Rider, an assistant commissioner at the New York State Education Department who oversees Vadir. While every episode should be investigated, she said, “sometimes what happens at the local level should stay there, and not necessarily be submitted to the state.”
In recent years, criticism of Vadir came from all sides, including the United States secretary of education, John B. King Jr., when he was education commissioner in New York. Mr. King said the system “rarely reflects the realities of school health and safety.”
A frequent complaint was that the persistently dangerous formula, which is the ratio of violent encounters to enrollment, puts small schools at a disadvantage. Five major episodes at a school with 100 students, for example, comes across as more problematic than five episodes at a school with 500 students. David Goldsmith, the president of the Community Education Council for District 13 in Brooklyn, said there had been small schools in his district on the persistently dangerous list that he thought did not belong there.
“When you’ve been in the school and know the culture of the school, and this school has been labeled persistently dangerous?” he said. “You think, ‘That’s crazy.’”
But some critics now wonder if the system has moved too far in the other direction. Among them is Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter-school group that is suing New York City for what it says are violent conditions in city schools. Jeremiah Kittredge, the chief executive of the organization said that by removing and collapsing categories, the state would give families less information about what’s going on in schools, not more. Ms. Rider of the State Education Department said New York would still make some of that information available in subcategories.
The changes do not remove what many see as the most fundamental problem: Vadir is based on self-reported information, and given that the reporting has consequences, school administrators might have an interest in keeping certain episodes to themselves.
Jonathan Burman, a spokesman for the State Education Department, did not address that issue directly but said in an email: “It is critical that everyone has a clear and consistent way to track and compare the level of safety in every school. The department’s goal is to ensure that the most accurate school safety data possible gets reported.”
Johanna Miller, the advocacy director at the New York Civil Liberties Union, was a member of a task force that worked on the new regulations. She said the group “worked a lot with the language of the categories so it matched up better with the language of school discipline, rather than what it was before, which was penal code language.”
For example, “assault with physical injury” and “assault with serious physical injury” will now become a single category, called “physical injury.” Categories like “reckless endangerment” will disappear.
“You don’t have to be a lawyer anymore to understand how to report things,” Ms. Miller said.
The new regulations will take effect in July.
One thing that will not change is the formula for determining whether a school is persistently dangerous. So to try to keep small schools from being unnecessarily branded with that label, Ms. Rider said, the department plans to review any school that is flagged but has fewer than 250 students.
Even before Tuesday’s vote, the state had taken action to reduce the number of schools on the persistently dangerous list. At the start of the 2015-16 school year, there were 32 schools on the list.
This year, there were five.
Ms. Rider said that last year, the department started working intensely to help manage student behavior at schools that had one year of data with a high number of episodes, putting them in danger of ending up on the list the next year.
Schools were also given more guidance on how to report disruptive behavior. Schools kept in regular contact with the state, Ms. Rider said, and some 70 sessions were offered last year to teachers, principals and district staff members on interventions, investigation and reporting.
Ms. Rider said schools were not instructed to report fewer episodes or to downgrade their severity to create a more flattering portrait. “That did not happen,” she said.
Ms. Rider said that changes in how educators at all levels thought about discipline and misbehavior had also played a role in reducing the number of episodes reported. Schools and districts around the state have been moving away from suspensions and toward practices like restorative justice, which encourages getting to the source of outbursts rather than just sending students out of the classroom.
She also said the state planned to expand this holistic view of student behavior on the measurement side as well. This year, the state is testing a new School Climate Index in seven schools. It will look at information like Vadir data, rates of absenteeism, and school surveys from parents, teachers and students.
 New York Education Dept. Is Sued Over Violence in Schools
The mother of a New York City public school student, a plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit, spoke about her son’s mistreatment outside the Education Department’s headquarters on Thursday.

A group of public school families and a pro-charter advocacy group filed a lawsuit in Federal District Court this week alleging that the atmosphere at New York City public schools was depriving students of their right to receive an education free of violence, bullying and harassment.

The class-action suit, filed on Wednesday in New York’s Eastern District against the New York City Education Department and its chancellor, Carmen FariƱa, claims that violence in schools is increasing, and that it is often underreported. The suit also says that school violence disproportionately affects certain groups of students, like those who are black, Hispanic, gay, bisexual or transgender.

The suit, which claims the Education Department has failed “to address and remediate in-school violence in New York City’s public schools,” was filed by 11 students and their families. They were joined by Families for Excellent Schools, a pro-charter advocacy group that has been a fierce and frequent critic of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s education policies.

The group’s chief executive, Jeremiah Kittredge, held a news conference on Thursday morning in front of the Education Department’s headquarters in Manhattan, to encourage other public school parents to join the suit.

The group’s picture of violence in the city’s schools directly counters Mr. de Blasio’s. In a statement, the mayor said he viewed “each incidence as obviously troubling,” but challenged the group’s facts, saying that “this year to date, the major crime in our schools is down 14.29 percent and other crimes down 6.77 percent.”

Mr. de Blasio’s figures are drawn from a database that is collected and reported by the New York Police Department.

Toya Holness, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said those figures track any occurrence in which a member of the Police Department is involved, whether a uniformed officer or a school safety agent. If an episode is witnessed by a classroom teacher but does not reach the school safety agent, it is not included.

By that count, the total number of recorded episodes dropped slightly, to 6,875 in the 2014-15 school year from 6,950 the year before. During the same period, reports of “seven major felony crimes” fell to 614 from 654. In the 2000-1 school year, by contrast, there were 1,575 of those major crimes reported.

In claiming that schools are increasingly violent, Families for Excellent Schools relies on data from New York State. Those figures are collected by school administrators and might include classroom incidents that are not included in the Police Department’s numbers. This city data is then reported to the state, Ms. Holness said.

Based on that data, the complaint says the number of violent episodes rose 23 percent in the school year ending in June 2015 from the previous year.

The validity of the state data has been widely criticized, not least by the federal education secretary, John B. King Jr., when he was New York State’s education commissioner, who said that it “rarely reflects the realities of school health and safety.” Critics have said that the state’s system does not differentiate enough between minor infractions and more serious complaints, and that because the data are not verified, it is difficult to know whether schools are accurately reporting violent situations. A task force is working to revise the system.

Nonetheless, the individual claims in the lawsuit were troubling. One student, a 9-year-old boy at a school in West Harlem, is said to have been grabbed by the ear by his math teacher, who “dragged him down the stairs and threw him onto a landing,” according to the complaint.

An 11-year-old girl at school in Chelsea was bullied and assaulted for years by another student, who then began to attack her 7-year-old sister. The Education Department “refuses to discipline or transfer” the bully, the suit said.

The suit asks the city be compelled to devise a plan to address issues of violence and harassment, and asks the court to appoint an independent monitor to oversee the Education Department’s efforts.


Statement: Student Victimized by Arson at Brooklyn District School Shows Impact of State’s Vague New VADIR Rules

New York, NY – Families for Excellent Schools' CEO Jeremiah Kittredge released the following statement in response to a news report of a Brooklyn student who was hospitalized yesterday with third-degree burns after a fellow student lit her hair on fire.

Yesterday, the Board of Regents vote to approve 100.2(gg) of the Commissioner’s Regulations, Relating to the Uniform Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting System (VADIR) -- which eliminated several serious incident categories and merged multiple severe incident types into categories shared with minor offenses, such as “assaults with serious physical injury” and “assaults with physical injury.”

Jeremiah Kittredge, CEO, Families for Excellent Schools:

“Yesterday’s horrifying assault speaks to the real-life impact of the state’s vague new VADIR rules. Under this weakened system of school violence tracking, an incident that sent a student to the hospital with third-degree burns will be categorized no differently than a minor scuffle resulting in less than a bruise.”