The schools identified as the nation’s most dangerous in recent years aren’t in urban centers; they’re in places like Vineland, N.J., Augusta, Ga., and Todd County, S.D., reports Gannett News Service. The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to identify “persistently dangerous” schools and give parents the option of moving their children to other schools. The law gives so much leeway to states and school districts that only those schools diligent about reporting ever come close to making the list.
Sates have made it hard for schools to be classified as unsafe and schools can report incidents as they see fit. Fewer than 100 of the 90,000-plus public schools have been slapped with the label since the law took effect in 2002. Schools where the bloodiest incidents have occurred, notably Columbine in the well-to-do Denver suburb of Littleton, where 12 students and one teacher were killed in 1999, would almost never qualify. The stigma of a “persistently dangerous” label is enough to keep most schools from being honest, said Beverly Caffee Glenn of the Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. “There’s realty prices to be considered. Would you want to move into a school district where you knew it was unsafe?” said Glenn. “There’s also the issue: Do you want to be the principal of a school where you can’t control your kids?”