Despite budget cuts, violent incidents remain about level this year
By the Notebook on Mar 2, 2014 10:03 AM
by Kevin McCorry for NewsWorks
[Editor's Note: Since this story first ran on Saturday, we've done additional reporting. The story has been updated to reflect per capita violent incident totals.]
The Philadelphia School District says the number of reported violent incidents in schools this year is comparable with last year's levels, ticking up 1.12 percent.
In total, District data shows that 1,266 incidents have been reported in the 2013-14 school year through January.
In the 2012-13 school year, 1,252 incidents were reported through January.
The District counts abductions and attempted abductions, assaults, drug and alcohol offenses, incendiary fires, morals offenses (which includes sexual assault), robbery, and weapons in the violent incident tallies.
By far, assaults are reported in schools more than any other offense. Through January 2014, 660 have been reported, compared to 644 in the same period last school year.
There have been 221 reported weapons incidents, well over one incident per school day. By this time last school year, there were 233 reported weapons incidents.
Between 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 District enrollment fell by 5,994 students. A more accurate look at the culture of violence in District schools this year can be seen by analyzing the rates of violent incidents per 100 students. Last year through January, the violent incident rate per 100 students was .89. This year, in that same time, the violent incident rate is .94.
This represents a 5.6 percent increase in incidents per 100 students.
This increase disrupts what had been a positive trend in the District. “The number of serious incidents have been declining for several years,” said District spokesman Fernando Gallard.
In September, the Pennsylvania Department of Education announced that only two Philadelphia School District schools qualified for the state's "persistently dangerous" list based on 2012-2013 data.
It was the third consecutive year that the District achieved a reduction of 40 percent or more in the number of schools listed as persistently dangerous.
Between 2011-12 and 2012-13, the total number of violent incidents district-wide declined 32 percent, from 4,059 to 2,756. The district's declining student population explained some of that fall off, but the overall percentage rate declined as well. Violent incidents per 100 students went down from 2.66 to 1.84.
At the time of the announcement, Superintendent William Hite touted the progress.