The Washington Post recently reported that many school systems across the country are not publicly documenting the crimes they experience. In fact, in most areas of the country, reports of violence, weapons, drugs, and sex in schools do not even exist. This revelation surprised me, considering our society’s ongoing efforts to increase safety in our schools. But even though there are some valid reasons why school systems try to avoid the documentation altogether, there are, perhaps, even better reasons why schools should be required to create annual reports of crime and make them available to the public.
Among school superintendents, principals, and other administrators, there is a reluctance to make crime reports public due to their concern for the school’s image and reputation. In the Post article, Wayde B. Byard, spokesman for Loudon County schools in Virginia, said that teachers were worried parents might misuse the crime data to “rate schools based on arbitrary statistics that often involve students that are no longer at a school.”
But there is also a growing demand from parents for access to more detailed data on crime in schools, and I think that more and more school systems across the country will begin to keep better records. Many school systems in such states as Florida and Pennsylvania already have detailed reporting systems, and once published, the information is available to anyone. Many Washington, DC-area schools are also currently implementing annual crime reports. Not only will these school crime reports inform the public of what’s going on inside their school systems, but they will also provide a good way of monitoring school safety over the years. In time, such reporting could become an invaluable component of comprehensive school crime prevention programs.