Florida Education Officials now admit what the CBS4 I-Team first told you last week.
That violence data about our violence in our schools, which can be found posted on DOE’s website, doesn’t match the reality that police find on our campuses.
And state officials now admit the I-Team caught a big mistake when it comes to weapons found at Miami-Dade schools in 2006-2007.
I-Team Investigator Stephen Stock went to Tallahassee to get answers.
The fatal stabbing of a student at Coral Gables High on September 15, 2009, was highly unusual in that it involved a student death. But the incident was not so unusual in that the student suspect brought a weapon to school.
In the case of this homicide police say the weapon was a knife.
In Miami-Dade County schools three years ago, police found 152 weapons and filed reports in each case.
But if you go on Florida’s Department of Education’s violence tracking website you would think that in Miami-Dade County there were ZERO weapons were found on schools campuses in 2006-2007.
“This certainly does look like an anomaly when you see zero reported weapons,” said Florida’s Department of Education’s Press Secretary Thomas Butler. “So we did talk to the district about it. And they mentioned there was an administration change quite possibly clerical error that occurred.”
But a six-month CBS4 I-Team investigation calls into question whether this is “just” a clerical error.
The I-Team investigation found wide discrepancies in the number of violent incidents recorded by police and the number of same incidents reported on the Florida’s Department of Education’s website.
There were wide discrepancies in the number of reported incidents in violence categories such as battery, assault and drug charges.
You can see our previous stories on this issue by clicking below:
I-Team investigator Stephen Stock asked DOE’s Brooks Rumenik “Isn’t that a misleading misrepresentation?”
Rumenik, who is Director of DOE’s Office of Safe Schools answered, “Because the Department (of Education) is not the one inputting the data we can’t speak to why there would be differences in numbers.”
“We have 22 different categories (of violence data),” said Florida’s Department of Education’s Family and Community Outreach Bureau Chief Joe Davis. “They (the categories) don’t match up specifically. I know the law enforcement data doesn’t capture fighting specifically. So what might be battery to a law enforcement report might be fighting to SESIR.”
SESIR stands for School Environmental Safety Incident Report. SESIR is violence data reported by the state of Florida to the federal government to include in its No Child Left Behind reports.
“The data is not specifically designed for parents,” said Brooks Rumenik. “Although I welcome an opportunity for parents to better understand it because it helps that to see all the factors that goes into school safety.”
State officials say it’s like comparing apples to oranges. The DOE officials say that these violence differences stem from different data sets, different agencies reporting them and different definitions of what battery, assault, drugs and violence are.
Even so, investigator Stock asked “How is that (having all these different data sources) not misleading to the public?”
“I appreciate the question,” said Rumenik. “I wish I had opportunity to walk parents through the data.”
Because of these wide disparities, critics charge that DOE, on its website, is not giving parents an accurate and full picture about the amount of violence that’s happening at their child’s schools.
“I appreciate that and I’m a parent as well,” said Rumenik. “I have three children in public school, so this is something that would definitely be a concern to me or question. I wouldn’t understand that if I didn’t work where I work.”
State officials also say the data you find on the web is only for incidents where students are punished in school, which raises even more troubling questions in cases such as Coral Gables High, where a student has been charged with second degree murder, but so far, received no school suspension or punishment.
I-Team Investigator Stock asked: “You mean to tell me that when I go on there (to the website) next year, there’s not going to a weapons or a murder listed at Coral Gables High School?”
“The tragedy that happened just last week is one that would end up being captured within SESIR data eventually,” said DOE’s Joe Davis. “It’s something that might not be there now.”
Several years ago DOE just posted the data straight from each school district on its website.
But a few years back it got a grant to have Florida State University’s Center for Criminology and Public Policy Research “massage” and “clean” the data before putting it up on the website.
The cost to taxpayers to do that and further complicate and muddy this violence picture for parents? $1.5 million dollars.
The $1.5 million was paid for over a three year period by a federal grant. It’s a grant that expired in August, 2008.