I-Team: The Full Truth On Violence In Schools

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CBS4 Investigates
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The stabbing at Coral Gables High School Tuesday morning now has many parents wondering exactly how safe their child’s school really is. The CBS4 I-Team uncovers disturbing evidence that parents are not getting the full truth about the violence in their schools. Investigator Stephen Stock explains.

When parents want to know what’s going on at their child’s school they go to Florida’s Department of Education website. There they can see a breakdown of incidents involving drugs, fights, batteries and assaults.

But the I-Team discovered those numbers don’t tell the real story. South Dade High School, 2006, a 17 year-old student rushed to the hospital. A fellow student charged with assaulting him during a violent fight.

But visit Florida’s Department of Education website which tracks violent incidents at individual schools statewide and you would find it’s as if this incident NEVER happened.

You can find the two websites DOE directs you to here:
FLDOE Website
FSU Criminology Center

According to the data of individual violent incidents for the school year 2006-2007, the latest data available from the state South Dade High School had NO assaults. But the I-Team found that Miami-Dade Schools Police actually filed 5 different reports of assault on campus during that time period.

Schools Police Chief Charlie Hurley says his officers file only reports when incidents meet certain standards and he stands by his department’s numbers.

“My numbers are accurate,” said Chief Hurley. “We stand by our data. We feel it’s very accurate. We feel it’s very transparent.”

Chief Hurley said crime data must be tracked accurately for his office to be effective and for parents to know what’s really going on in their child’s classroom.

“And in some cases you can argue that we report when it doesn’t need to be reported,” Chief Hurley said. “But we feel we’d rather err on the side of caution, on the side of what is right.”

In fact, it’s not the Miami-Dade police report numbers that are questionable but as the I-Team discovered, it’s the violence numbers posted by Florida’s Department of Education on-line through Florida State University’s Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research that are at issue.

The CBS4 I-Team spent more than six months obtaining and adding up the actual numbers of police violence incidents at every Miami-Dade and Broward County school covering the last three years. The I-Team compared the 2006-2007 violence numbers because they are the latest numbers available to the public through the DOE’s web site.

The I-Team discovered the state’s website doesn’t track weapons. Reading the website, you would think there were zero weapons found in Miami-Dade schools in 2006-2007.

In fact, school police reported finding 152 weapons at 65 different schools.

“Safety should not be politicized,” said Karen Aronowitz, president of United Teachers of Dade County. “And when we do not take data, do not take reports from the people who are in our schools then of course we’re compromising safety. And that can’t be the way we address issues in our school of safety and violence.”

Another example of the wide discrepancy uncovered by the CBS4 I-Team, the issue of tracking drug possessions. The state’s website shows a total 21 different cases of drugs in Miami-Dade schools. But the real, police incident number demonstrated in actual police reports is 177 drug cases.

The I-Team’s discovery brought a swift and emotional reaction from at least one local school board member.

“It makes me angry,” said school board District 7 representative Ana Rivas Logan. “Not just as a parent but as a representative of my community because you know the public has a right to the correct information. They have a right to have the information so that they can make decisions for their children.”

The I-Team found similar data discrepancies in Broward County. In all, 48 different Broward County schools had higher police reports than what Florida DOE’s website shows. The state says the discrepancies are because of different definitions and different criteria. But critics say that’s not good enough. They say the gaps in what’s on the website and what’s real is just too great in many cases.

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