After months of delay, New York State disclosed yesterday for the first time rates of student assaults and other offenses in all public schools. Releasing figures for weapons possession, bullying, and other serious misbehavior, officials cautioned the data were deeply flawed because counting methods varied so sharply from one school to another. Efforts are under way to improve reporting next year. On Long Island, reported cases of student misconduct run three or four times higher in some high-achieving districts such as Miller Place, Oceanside and Port Washington than in some other districts with frequent community complaints of gang fighting.
The federal No Child Left Behind Law has required public release of school-violence data since last year to encourage better discipline and to inform parents of dangerous situations. Some educators say the disclosure requirements present a dilemma: The stricter they are in cracking down on student misconduct and reporting it, the more they risk generating statistics that will look bad compared with those of other districts. “What’s the definition of a weapon?” said Kathy Weiss, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents. “I consider a pocket knife a weapon, and we treat it as such. But do I know that everybody considers it that way? No.”