Schools and colleges do not report crime and violent incidents on campus consistently or accurately – in many cases because they are not required to, according to safety experts and a report by 27 state attorneys general, says Stateline.org. A patchwork of state and federal laws intended to tally assaults, robberies, drug use, and other crime at primary and secondary schools – as well as colleges and universities – fails to provide a clear picture of the scope of the problem, critics charge. Out-of-date, incomplete statistics are common and authorities have few effective tools to penalize institutions that do not comply, including fines that observers say amount to a “drop in the bucket.”
Making matters worse, school and college officials are reluctant to release more comprehensive information on their own because of stigmas that can be attached to institutions with frequent crimes, said Ronald Stephens of the California-based National School Safety Center. A report Sept. 6 from a bipartisan task force of state attorneys general – convened in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre – gives new weight to the school safety experts' concerns. Chaired by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers (R) and Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch (D), the National Association of Attorneys General Task Force on School and Campus Safety found crime reporting “inconsistent and inaccurate and does not promote true accountability on the part of schools and colleges in terms of dealing with public safety issues.” The attorneys general recommended changes in state and federal policy.