CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The number of criminal and violent incidents in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools continued climbing in 2012, fueled partly by a large and steadily growing number of assaults on teachers and other school employees, a new state report shows.
The annual report on crime and violence in N.C. public schools tallied 1,552 acts in CMS in 2011-12, including 512 incidents of students found with weapons other than guns, 434 drug possession incidents and 382 assaults on school employees. The CMS rate of 11.3 incidents per 1,000 students is well above the state rate of 7.6 per 1,000 and Wake County’s rate of 7.5 per 1,000.
CMS reported eight guns in schools last year, including two at Turning Point Academy, an alternative school for students with discipline problems, and one each at Collinswood Language Academy, Endhaven and Hidden Valley elementary schools and Hough, North Mecklenburg and West Mecklenburg high schools. That’s the largest number in the last four years, but well below a peak of 28 in 2006-07, when the district had fewer students.
Wake, the state’s largest district, reported only two guns in schools last year. Wake tallied a total of 40 violent acts, compared with 124 in CMS.
The state requires all public schools to report 16 types of violent or criminal acts, which include various types of assaults and possession of alcohol, drugs, guns and other weapons. Statewide, the total number of incidents declined slightly from the previous year, even as total enrollment increased.
For the last three years, CMS totals have increased roughly in proportion with rising enrollment, with the rate per 1,000 students hovering just over 11.
The state report also breaks out the rate of criminal and violent acts for high school students. CMS logged 14.6 acts per 1,000-high schoolers, down from 16.9 the previous year and very similar to the state average. That’s what CMS highlighted in a news release sent Friday evening, headlined “Crime in CMS high schools declines in 2012.”
“We’re pleased to see our rate declining in high schools but we won’t be satisfied until it’s at zero for all schools,” Superintendent Heath Morrison said in that release.
Assaults on faculty
For the last several years, through various changes in district leadership, CMS officials have struggled to explain and address the high levels of crime and violence, and particularly the steep rise in assaults on staff. This year’s total of 382 is up from 305 the previous year and 104 five years ago.
Judy Kidd, an Independence High teacher and president of the Classroom Teachers Association, said she’s not surprised. At her school, she said, she knows of one student putting a substance into a teacher’s coffee and another grabbing a teacher by the throat.
“There’s no penalty,” Kidd said.
She said CMS needs more alternative schools for the small number of students who are truly uncontrollable, and better career programs for students who aren’t college-bound and get frustrated by classes they don’t consider useful.
The Observer’s effort to get comments on the report from CMS officials was unsuccessful.
In the past, officials have noted that assaults on staff can include relatively minor incidents, such as young children striking out or students intentionally bumping teachers in the hall. Metro and Morgan, special schools for students with disabilities, accounted for 67 of this year’s assaults on staff, with a handful of elementary schools logging 10 or more such assaults.
CMS reported 12 assaults resulting in serious injury, a category that can include students or adults as victims.
The number of assaults on personnel reported statewide increased slightly, from 1,156 to 1,212. Without the CMS increase, the state total would be down slightly.
Ups and downs
CMS saw a steep climb in reports of sexual assault – a category that includes touching a person’s private parts but does not include rape or any type of penetration. There were 75 sexual assaults reported in 2011-12, compared with 29 the previous year. CMS reported one rape and 18 cases of “sexual offense,” which involves penetration or statutory rape.
However, possession of drugs and alcohol in CMS were down significantly, to four-year lows.
Morrison, who started in July, recently released his preliminary plan for the district. Safety and violence are not a major focus, but the plan calls for an anti-bullying campaign to “promote a safe school environment for every child.”
Morrison recently created 22 volunteer task forces to help shape his plan moving ahead. None of those focuses on safety, but he said Friday morning that the panel on “culture, engagement and shared values” could look at safety as part of the school culture.
The state report also looks at the number of students who are suspended and expelled.
CMS reported almost 50 short-term suspensions for every 100 high school students, well above the state average of 30 per 100 and Wake’s rate of 16 per 100. Because some students are suspended more than once, the numbers don’t mean half of all CMS high school students were suspended.
African-American students, who made up 42 percent of CMS enrollment last year, accounted for 77 percent of the short-term suspensions.
Morrison said Friday morning that pattern is common across the country. While some serious offenses clearly demand suspension, he said, national studies show that most suspensions stem from insubordination and disrespect, issues that can arise when teachers don’t understand the culture of students, and clashes escalate.
Morrison has made cultural competency a focus of his plans for CMS. One of his task forces will focus on African-American males.
Long-term suspensions, which last 11 days to one school year and can include assignment to an alternative school, were uncommon in CMS and statewide. There were 88 in CMS and 1,609 statewide.
Expulsions were even rarer, with none reported in CMS last year. Statewide there were 30 expulsions, down from 69 the previous year.
“An expulsion is usually reserved for cases where the student is at least 14 years of age and presents a clear threat of danger to self or others,” the report says.
N.C. criminal/violent acts by district
2012 report on crime/violence, suspensions and dropouts
N.C. criminal/violent acts by school
Here are the short-term suspension rates (10 days or less) for high school students in North Carolina and the three largest districts.
CMS: 49.9 per 100
State: 30.3 per 100
Guilford: 22.4 per 100
Wake: 16.3 per 100
CMS hot spots
Schools that had some of the highest levels of criminal/violent acts. *Metro and Morgan are special schools for students with disabilities, and Turning Point is an alternative school for students with discipline issues.
Rates per 1,000 students
Turning Point*: 76.9
Martin Middle: 47.3
Garinger Math/Science: 46.8
Eastway Middle: 37.9
Garinger International: 35.6
Coulwood Middle: 32.7
King Middle: 31.9
Harding High: 31.7
Ranson Middle: 31.3
Assaults on staff
Selwyn Elementary: 19
Martin Middle: 15
Albemarle Road Elementary: 14
Hidden Valley Elementary: 14
Pinewood Elementary: 13
Smithfield Elementary: 13
Tuckaseegee Elementary: 11
Harding High: 10
Independence High: 32
South Meck High: 28
Harding High: 25
West Meck High: 24
Alexander Graham Middle: 23
Myers Park High: 20
Weapons (not guns)
Eastway Middle: 21
Coulwood Middle: 18
Harding High: 16
King Middle: 15
McClintock Middle: 14
Briarwood Academy: 13
South Meck High: 13
Thomasboro Academy: 12
Martin Middle: 10
Quail Hollow Middle: 10
Crime and violence
Here are Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools’ 2012 results for some of the most serious or frequent of the 16 acts the state monitors, with the change from 2011. See the full report for all North Carolina districts and schools at www.ncpublicschools.org/research/discipline/reports
• Assault with serious injury: 12 (up 5)
• Assault with a weapon: 17 (up 10)
• Assault on school personnel: 382 (up 77)
• Alcohol possession: 78 (down 32)
• Drug possession: 434 (down 60)
• Gun possession: 8 (up 2)
• Possession of other weapons: 512 (up 7)
• All acts: 1,552 (up 69)
• Violent acts: 124 (up 72)