A little-publicized provision of the No Child Left Behind Act requiring states to identify “persistently dangerous schools” is hampered by widespread underreporting of violent incidents and by major differences among the states in defining unsafe campuses, say several audits reported by the Washington Post. Out of about 94,000 U.S. schools, only 46 were designated as persistently dangerous in the past school year.
One high school in Los Angeles had 289 cases of battery, two assaults with a deadly weapon, a robbery and two sex offenses in one school year, according to an audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general. It did not meet the state’s definition of a persistently dangerous school. None of California’s roughly 9,000 schools has. The reason, according to an audit issued by the Department of Education: “States fear the political, social, and economic consequences of having schools designated as PDS (Persistently Dangerous School), and school administrators view the label as detrimental to their careers. Consequently, states set unreasonable definitions for PDS and schools have underreported violent incidents.” Critics of the law, including lawmakers who hope the policy can be changed as part of the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, say the low number is a sign the legislation is not working.