Reported violent and disruptive incidents in New York State schools rose to 190,439 last year — up 45 percent from the previous year. State officials cite this as a sign that reporting has improved already, though they admit the system is flawed, Newsday reports. On Long Island, middle schools reporting even more incidents of fighting and bullying than high schools. The figures released by the state yesterday were denounced by many local district officials as misleading and even useless in judging schools’ safety. The report, for 2003-04 and 2004-05, includes everything from murder, rape and robbery to defying teachers’ instructions in class.
National experts say districts often wrongly focus on high-school violence, rather than intervening in middle schools or even in the upper elementary grades. “In middle schools — that’s where we see the peak normally” in misbehavior, said William Lassiter of the Center for the Prevention of School Violence, a private, government-funded agency in Raleigh, N.C. “Mainly, that’s because students are still learning how to cope.” Many local authorities say the data should not be used to compare schools. They note that some schools have a policy of reporting every hallway shoving match, while others may report only incidents that result in outright fighting.