The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to permit students at crime-ridden schools to transfer to safer sites starting in September. California has drafted such a restrictive definition of “persistently dangerous schools” that many of the state’s largest urban school districts, do not have a single campus on the target list, according to the Los Angeles Times. Officials estimate that fewer than 50 of the state’s 8,000 schools will meet the definition.
Not even Banning High, a 2,800-student campus in the Los Angeles Unified School District, would qualify, although it had 28 battery cases, two assaults with a deadly weapon, a robbery and three sex offenses in the 2001-02 school year. The state says a school is persistently dangerous if at least one student has been caught with a firearm in each of the last three years, and if the campus has expelled at least 1% of its students each year for hate crimes, extortion, sexual battery or other violent acts. One official who helped write the definition said a concern among some school districts was that a broader definition of danger might trigger too many transfers. A Los Angeles school official said, “This is an index that almost rewards you for turning a blind eye to problems.”
Florida and North Carolina are among other states that already have reported no persistently dangerous schools. William Modzeleski of the Safe and Drug Free Schools Program in the U.S. Department of Education, said, “There is no one right definition …One of the byproducts of this will lead to a debate between the public and state agencies. If there aren’t any persistently dangerous schools, then why not?”