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Opinion
Education Opinion

‘Persistently Dangerous’ Schools

By Walt Gardner — December 23, 2016 1 min read

There’s nothing that worries parents as much as school violence. I’m talking now about offenses that don’t quite make the headlines like mass shootings but are serious enough by themselves to cause many parents to pull their children out. Recognizing the problem, New York State has revised the way it tracks school violence (“New York Changes the Way It Keeps Tabs on School Violence,” The New York Times, Dec. 13).

Under the old Violent and Disruptive Incident Reporting system, schools were required to track offenses in 20 categories, and report them to the state. But the guidelines were so confusing that they engendered litle confidence. The new Vadir reduces the offenses to nine categories and clarifies them in the hope of getting a more reliable picture.

I hope it provides better feedback because if a school in New York State has a certain number of episodes in two consecutive years, it can be labeled “persistently dangerous.” That means students requesting a transfer must be offered a place in another school in their district. The trouble is that in many parts of New York City, most of the schools in certain areas are not much better, even though they have not yet received the notorious label.

The more fundamental problem is that principals are reluctant to report offenses out of concern they may be seen as evidence of poor management. I don’t think most taxpayers appreciate how hard it is to maintain order in certain areas of the cities. Teachers used to be allowed to act in loco parentis. But court decisions have undermined their authority, with the result that students who want to learn are held hostage by a few miscreants.

Perhaps the new Vadir will make a difference, but I doubt it.

The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner’s Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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