September 9, 2008
The Wisconsin State Legislative Council’s Special Committee on School Safety meets today. The committee’s charge is described as follows:
The Special Committee is directed to review means by which school safety can be improved by examining the relationship between maintaining a safe and secure physical environment and fostering a safe and secure learning environment. The committee is directed to focus on best practices relating to school discipline, including suspension and expulsion, programs for disciplined students, creation and implementation of bullying prevention and other school conduct enforcement measures, and interagency coordination with mental health, law enforcement, and other relevant agencies. The committee may also review means by which information can be disseminated and assistance can be provided.
The agenda for today’s meeting is focused on school safety plans, including a presentation by state Attorney General J. B. van Hollen.
The members of the committee include Luis Yudice, the MMSD‘s Coordinator of Safety and Security.
October 28, 2007
Following on our previous post, we’ve taken a look at the same categories of data, but this time for MMSD middle schools. The same data notes from the previous post apply here, with a couple of additional notes: the police call data for Toki includes police calls for Orchard Ridge Elementary School, if any, since those schools share the same block; and enrollment dropped in many of the middle schools between the comparison years (enrollment declined about ten percent in the aggregate for MMSD middle schools; school-specific enrollment information is available at the DPI web site).
Police calls for service, down for most middle schools:
Suspension percentages, up for more than half of the middle schools:
Rates for weapons/drugs related suspensions/expulsions, up for more than half of the middle schools:
October 24, 2007
When there’s violence at school, parents want answers to their questions about school safety. If parents are told “our school is safer than other schools”, where’s the data that supports that vague reassurance? Police call-for-service data (as posted on this site from time to time) is one indicator of school crime, but it’s only part of the picture, and may not be a reliable basis of comparing school to school – or even comparing whether the safety situation in one particular school is improving or deteriorating.
We looked at police call data for East, LaFollette, Memorial and West High Schools in 2001-02, and in 2005-06. (Data notes: This data was obtained by public records request to the Madison Police Department. Due to the format in which the data was provided, the call totals for each school are for calls made to the block in which each school is located, rather than the specific street address of the school. Calls for each year were tallied over a July 1 through June 30 period in order to track the corresponding school years used for comparison below. Variations in school enrollment between the comparison years aren’t reported here since they don’t appear to affect the analysis or conclusions, but that information is readily accessible on the DPI web site. The DPI web site is also the source of the discipline data presented below.)
For all of the high schools other than Memorial, fewer calls for service were made in 2005-06 than in 2001-02 (click on thumbnail to enlarge):
Yet suspension percentages were higher in 2005-06 than in 2001-02 for all four high schools:
And the rates of weapons- and drugs-related incidents resulting in suspensions and expulsions were higher in 2005-06 than in 2001-02 for all four high schools:
It’s obvious that the numbers in any of these categories can vary depending on whether the school officlal decided to call or not call police, or to pursue or not pursue suspension/expulsion in response to an incident. We can’t assess school safety accurately and reliably without information on the total number of violent or disruptive incidents, including those incidents that didn’t result in a call to police or suspension or expulsion. No need to reinvent the wheel: schools in the state of New York are required to track and report violent and disruptive incidents on a consistent basis, using this report form.
September 2, 2007
The tables linked below summarize Madison Police Department calls for service to MMSD schools from July 1, 2006 through June 30, 2007, as follows:
To repeat the commentary from the last time we posted call data statistics:
Data like this provides a starting point for getting a sense of the type and levels of incidents that affect safety in our children’s schools, and it’ll be useful to compare these numbers from time to time against like categories of data going forward. Context that we need, but don’t have, is information on the number and types of violent or disruptive incidents occurring in the schools as a whole (not just those resulting in police calls), and to what extent policies on summoning law enforcement in response to a violent or disruptive incident vary from school to school (in which case call data alone may be an unreliable index of the school’s relative safety).
August 14, 2007
I’ve seen drug deals on the bike path, my street outside the library, heard of prostitution, I’ve been followed home in the middle of the day by a 13-year-old armed rapist, and now I’m the one living behind bars in my home—I have bars on my back doors and windows. I was wondering if it would be possible to have police foot patrol or on horseback—or whatever—on the bike paths as a possible solution. The first thing I’ve noticed in the past when I’m walking to work or to the library or in the neighborhood are people loitering before I see drug activity or when I noticed the young—the 13-year-old boy, and I do think that that is definitely a precedent that comes before crimes. It’s very unnerving to be alone in a parking lot and to see a young—a large young man kind of loitering along and then he looks around to see if there’s anybody else around, you know and you know what might come next is a possible crime. It seems like children are the ones terrorizing the neighborhoods—often the ones committing the robberies and the burglaries and the mayhem are young teenage boys. All I really wanted to do when I bought my house three years ago was to be able to walk to work—it’s only half a mile—every day, and I still do that during daylight hours. I would also like a way to be warned if the police were to notice violent gang initiations on an increase in Madison. I think it would be helpful for the public to be notified if something like that does start to occur. I do appreciate the police staff.
On Cimarron Trail this summer there have been two major fights in my own back yard in which police had to spend several hours breaking them up. The last fight, my neighbor and I were threatened to be sued because we told people to quit trespassing due to their involvement in the fight. The next day there was gang graffiti on my sidewalk. I’m a teacher at Memorial High School, and so my request to Mayor Cieslewicz is please increase the police patrols on the West side. It not only affects the neighborhood, it affects every teacher’s job in Madison, because the issues going on in the neighborhood spill over into the schools, and they’re a big cause of what’s going on at the schools and especially Memorial High School. [emphasis added.] I also want to thank all the police officers I’ve met and especially Officer Shannon Blackmore, who’s not here but who has been a wonderful resource to Memorial High School staff.
Please listen to us. Please believe us.
These are excerpts from comments of speakers at last week’s “neighborhood listening session” on crime in the west side’s District 20 (video of the meeting is now available on Madison City Channel 12’s web site). Several hundred people attended the meeting (estimates of attendance by the media range from 600 to 750), and only a fraction of those who wanted to speak could be accommodated within the meeting’s 90-minute time limit. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, Madison Police Chief Noble Wray, and Alders Thuy Pham-Remmele (who organized the meeting), Jed Sanborn and Zach Brandon were there to listen.
At the meeting, Chief Wray noted that he appreciated the neighborhood feedback, and stated: “We’re going to have to develop a short- and a long-term plan. A number of you mentioned the need—and I would totally agree with you—the need for additional police resources. [Crowd applause.] But even if the mayor and the council approved tomorrow additional police resources, we would not see those police officers on the street until 2009.” Chief Wray will be announcing the police department’s plans for addressing crime in these neighborhoods at a future meeting (now scheduled for September 5*).
We all should be grateful to the people of District 20 and their alder for coming together and shining a light on crime in the neighborhoods. It was clear from the speakers’ remarks that these problems aren’t new. These problems have been compounded by being disregarded and downplayed as “anecdotal” or “isolated” incidents (although we now have an acknowledgment that the police department has been, in its own words, “behind the curve” in making information on crime available to the public). It’s good news that the city has started working on a plan for tackling crime on the West side. It’s not so good news that the city didn’t start working on this problem until the neighborhoods were in a uproar. The ship’s captain shouldn’t wait for the passengers to sound the alarm before navigating away from the iceberg.
Chief Wray has recently acknowledged publicly that there is a gang problem in Madison schools, and that it is growing. But crime-related issues are hardly front and center in the priorities of our school board for the upcoming school year; the school board does not have a dedicated safety committee; the Board of Education-Common Council liaison committee (which meets on an “as needed” basis) hasn’t met since March (no minutes for that meeting have been posted yet; the latest committee minutes available are those for the meeting held in February); and data on school-based crime continues to be incomplete and virtually inaccessible. We’ve lost essential lead time due to the delay in acknowledging the crime problem in our neighborhoods, which now limits the city’s options for taking action to address the problem. I hope that we are not heading toward the same mistake with our schools.
*Updated (9/5/07): The followup meeting has now been rescheduled for Thursday, September 13, 2007, at 6:30 pm at St. Maria Goretti school.
August 7, 2007
I know that East side residents like to read about burglaries, thefts, etc that are occurring in their neighborhoods. But compiling this information takes a significant amount of time. You may be surprised to learn that the District Captains have only one civilian support staff person. This one person’s primary responsibility is to handle persons coming to the counter of our station, answer phones and type police report. In essence, the District Captains have no staff to assist us with our many administrative duties. As a result of competing priorities, in upcoming newsletters, you will be seeing a transition away from this listing of incidents to more general information about the district and the department. I will continue to highlight incidents or information about suspicious persons you may encounter and other crime trends. I will also be bringing you information about our problem solving success stories and other proactive activities our officers engage in.
Madison East Police District newsletter, July 2007.
This is disappointing. Among all the Madison police district newsletters, the East district’s newsletter had been by far the most helpful source of information about school-based crime in its district. Given the community’s growing concern about crime, there’s clearly an unfilled niche for consistent, unfiltered, timely and complete information about crime in our neighborhoods and in our schools. If the district stations or public information office aren’t sufficiently staffed to get the word out, surely here’s an opportunity for an enterprising news or media outfit to step in and start publishing a daily online police blotter…eyeballs guaranteed.
August 6, 2007
The Violence-Free Zone initiative places young people from the community into schools as youth advisers. These advisers form relationships within the school and nearby community, and they work to identify students labeled as the most disruptive. They may help a kid find a safe place to go after school or better living arrangements for families. At South Division High School, they have even helped families with tax forms.
In the hallways, advisers defuse arguments before they boil over, and they confront unruly students with a stern message: Violent behavior is not acceptable. But along with that message, healthy alternatives are offered.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “Making Connections,” August 5, 2007.
The Milwaukee Public School system is expanding its “Violence-Free Zone” school safety program this coming school year. The program, developed by the national Center for Neighborhood Enterprise, places mentors from the community inside schools to build relationships with students and to counsel against and defuse student violence. (The CNE site includes some data on on the program’s success.) The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported earlier this year on the program’s success at Milwaukee’s South Division High School, and applauds the expansion of the program.
July 9, 2007
Madison Police Department Chief Noble Wray spoke on downtown safety at the monthly meeting of Downtown Madison, Inc. on June 28, 2007, and also briefly addressed the topic of gang activity in Madison schools during the program, as reported in The Capital Times (via the MadCrime101 blog, a welcome and valuable new resource focusing on concerns and issues relating to crime in Madison).
Chief Wray acknowledged the growing problem of gangs in Madison and their presence in Madison schools, and spoke of the need to quantify the extent of the problem and its trends, rather than reacting based on anecdotal “information”. I couldn’t agree more. The MPD can make much progress toward this goal by fuller and consistent disclosure to the public of incidents and statistics on gang activity (whether through its police district newsletters or its public information office news releases). But to quantify the gang problem in schools, the MPD will need to rely on data from the MMSD, since much can happen in a school which is relevant to quantifying the gang problem but isn’t brought to the attention of the MPD. Can the gang problem in Madison schools be accurately and reliably quantified and assessed for those schools that don’t have ERO’s (Education Resource Officers)? Of if the policies on when calls for service are to be made to MPD vary from school to school? Or when the MMSD relies on suspension and expulsion rates, instead of actual incidents of disruptive and violent behavior, to gauge school safety (all the while moving toward a policy of discouraging suspensions and expulsions)?
Madison City Channel 12’s video of the program is at this link: Downtown Madison, Inc. Presents: Madison Police Chief Noble Wray. The portion of the audience Q&A that addressed gang activity in schools is at 41:01 on the video clip, and a related earlier question regarding graffiti is at 38:55 on the video clip. For Mac users (the Mac user in our household informs me that the video doesn’t play on Macs), or for those who’d rather read than watch, a transcript is below the fold.
July 8, 2007
A bit of comic relief, from UK’s Comic Relief 2007, featuring Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and much inside baseball for Doctor Who fans (and, for that matter, parents of teenagers). Who knew that the sonic screwdriver would be the solution for disruptive classroom behavior?