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Addressing Safety Reporting Deficiencies on Colorado’s School Accountability Report

IP-2-2006 (February 2006)
Author: Kirstin Hasler and Pamela Benigno

PDF of full Issue Paper
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Executive Summary
The Safety and Discipline table within Colorado’s School Accountability Reports (SAR) does not provide a realistic picture of the environment in many public schools. The narrow criteria for an incident to be reported in the table under Assaults/Fights do not include most assaults and fights that take place in schools. This Issue Paper examines the following in regard to current safety reporting:

• According to state law, the Assaults/Fights category in the Safety and Discipline table on the SAR is restricted to incidents that occur as a “commission of an act on school grounds that, if committed by an adult, would be considered criminal assault, other than third degree assault.” First and second degree assaults are the only type of incidents to be reported under Assaults/ Fights and usually involve “serious bodily injury.”

• “Serious bodily injury” means bodily injury which, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, involves a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, a substantial risk of protracted loss or function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.

• Jefferson County School District R-1 (Jeffco), the largest school district in the state, reported 644 Assaults/Fights for 2003-2004. After district personnel discovered they were only to report first and second degree assaults, the number of Assaults/Fights on the SAR dropped to zero for 2004-2005.

• Police reports from one unnamed Jeffco high school revealed that, in the 2004-2005 school year, 23 incidents of fighting resulted in police charges but did not meet the criteria to be reported on the SAR.

• One student at the unnamed Jeffco high school was attacked in the school parking lot by several students. He was punched in the face and knocked to the ground. One of the students stomped on his head. The victim had blood across his face and knuckles. Yet the incident did not meet the criteria to be reported under Assaults/Fights.

• One category on the SAR—Other Violations of Code of Conduct—is a catch-all. The category includes crimes such as third degree assaults, sexual assaults, robberies, cheating, and dress code violations.

1. By modifying the scope of the data collection, the Colorado General Assembly should consider broadening the definition of the Assaults/ Fights category
a) to include third degree assaults, municipal assaults, and vehicular assaults;
b) to include disorderly conduct involving fighting as defined by state law and municipal ordinances;
c) to include incidents that take place in school vehicles, and at school activities and sanctioned events;
d) to include assaults with a connection to the school, such as when a student is attacked on the way home from school or attacked across the street from the school.

2. The General Assembly or the Colorado Department of Education should consider
a) clearly noting on the SAR the definition of the Assaults/Fights category;
b) restoring the Other Felonies category to the Safety and Discipline table and the definition of the type of offenses it might include.