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Comptroller slams DOE for crime reporting

The Department of Education (DOE) is not recording and reporting all of the violent and disruptive incidents that occur in city schools, according to an audit released by City Comptroller William Thompson that examined 10 city high schools, including Aviation High School in Long Island City and August Martin in Jamaica.
Thompson’s audit, which analyzed data including school disciplinary records, school safety agent reports and student suspension records from the 2004-2005 school year, found that 21 percent or 414 of the 1,996 total incidents that occurred at the 10 schools were not recorded properly in the online-data system.
In addition, the report found that 174 of the 1,247 incidents classified as serious failed to be reported.
“Our findings were troubling to say the least,” Thompson told reporters on Wednesday, September 19 at a press conference outside of Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan, one of the 10 schools his office audited. “The flawed reporting makes it difficult for parents, the public and government officials to honestly assess whether a school is safe.”
Under State Education Law, school districts must annually report to the State Education Department (SED) all violent and disruptive incidents occurring on school grounds. SED then posts the data on its web site in its annual Violent and Disruptive Incident Report (VADIR).
In addition, city school administrators must enter data into the On-line Occurrence Reporting System (OORS) so DOE can relay the information to the state.
August Martin, which had 429 total incidents occur, reported 387 of the incidents (90 percent), while Aviation had 102 incidents and reported 97 (95 percent), according to the audit.
However, the record-keeping at other city schools did not fare as well. Alfred E. Smith High School in the Bronx had 229 incidents and reported 96 (42 percent) and Boys & Girls High School in Brooklyn had 55 incidents and reported 14 (25 percent).
In a statement, the DOE said that the Comptroller’s report was misleading and imprecise on a number of levels. The statement criticized the audit for covering two-year-old data drawn from the OORS system, which was revamped since then; during the ensuing years, inflating the seriousness of the incidents not included in OORs and cherry picking 10 schools and using those as representative of the whole system.
“The comptroller’s methodology wouldn’t make it to first base with a researcher worth his or her salt,” read part of the DOE statement.
The audit recommended that the DOE monitor the data entry into OORS including visiting schools, take corrective action against the schools that do not enter the incidents and provide training on how to categorize the incidents to make sure they are reported consistently throughout the school system.
Thompson said that due to the underreported incidents, it was difficult to judge if crime in schools has in fact been declining.
“Parents need to demand schools and the DOE accurately report [the data],” Thompson said.

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