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Assault is the most commonly reported serious offense or violent crime in Florida's public schools, the state's first-ever statewide survey of crime and violence in the public schools has revealed.

Assault, described as "bodily harm or the threat of," made up 43.2 percent, or 19,907, of the total of 46,088 serious or violent offenses reported for the year between July 1990 and June 1991, the survey showed.

The study, which revealed another 185,322 minor offenses, including such crimes as disorderly conduct, prompted the education coalition that sponsored the survey to issue a plan to improve crime prevention and reporting.

Statewide, schools also recorded 2,976 incidents of weapons possession, 2,480 incidents of drug or alcohol possession, and one homicide, in Palm Beach County.

The survey, which included data from 63 of the state's 67 school districts, was a cooperative effort begun by the Florida Education Association/United and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, and was conducted this summer by a market-research firm.

The state's student population--with three counties not reporting--is more than 1.7 million, the survey found.

The coalition, which also included the Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association, the Florida P.T.A., and Youth Crime Watch of America, recommended more uniform procedures for recording and reporting school crime, including requiting the reporting of all crime and violent incidents.

A Minnesota appeals court has ruled that Sibley County authorities cannot remove two children from their parents, who teach them at home and refuse on religious grounds to allow them to be tested by school officials, without first exhausting administrative procedures provided for in state law.

A three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 10 that the state constitution's strong protections of religious freedom conflict with a state judge's order that the two children be placed in the custody of the Sibley County Social Services department because their parents refused to allow them to be tested.

Under state law, home-schooled children must score above the 30th percentile on a national norm-referenced test. The parents of the two children, identified in court papers only as T.K. and W.K., said such testing would violate their religious beliefs, which were not identified.

District Judge Leroy Yost ruled that the children were in need of protective custody because "Their future education is in jeopardy."

The appeals panel reversed the decision, saying it was not the least restrictive alternative available to the court. Even home- schooled children who take and fail to meet state standards on a national test are subject to numerous additional administrative procedures before any action can be taken against their parents, the court noted.

The appeals panel ordered the lower court to ensure that the county follows the additional administrative procedures, such as visiting the home, giving notice to the parents of specific violations, engaging in mediation, and, finally, bringing misdemeanor charges against the parents. .

Vol. 11, Issue 05

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