October 24, 2007
Police calls and discipline rates
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.