Georgia officials are not including thousands of crimes as they compile a federally mandated list of dangerous schools, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Some of the omitted incidents are among the most serious crimes on school campuses in recent years, including an alleged rape in Marietta and the poisoning of a Gwinnett teacher. Under the federal No Child Left Behind act, the state is required to create a list of “persistently dangerous schools” that show a pattern of serious criminal activity over a three-year period. Parents are allowed to transfer children out of schools on the list. The state is expected to release the 2004 list this month.
Parents who rely on the list as an indicator of school safety could get a false sense of security, said Shannon Sanderson, a mother of three Gwinnett County students. “There were several incidents that occurred that would have put Gwinnett schools on the list, and they are not on the list. And I don’t think it is just Gwinnett that has the problem.” The concern is over flawed state guidelines, restrictive reporting criteria, and confusion over criminal definitions. “I think that is going to be very hard for us for a long time to know if our data are accurate or not,” said Stuart Bennett, deputy state schools superintendent. Bill Modzeleski, director of the Safe and Drug-Free Schools Program at the U.S. Department of Education, said his department is reviewing how states are defining persistently dangerous schools to come up with a model that can be used nationally. “It is going to take awhile for this thing to work itself out,” he said.