The state Board of Education defines a school as “persistently dangerous” when for three consecutive years it is the scene of a serious crime – such as a homicide, rape, robbery or molestation – or when at least 2 percent of students, or 10 students, whichever is greater, are found to have committed less serious criminal offenses, such as drug possession or terroristic threats.
No Richmond County school was labeled persistently dangerous, and all but eight schools had fewer crimes in 2011-12 than the previous year, according to the state-required Unsafe Schools Report obtained by The Augusta Chronicle.
Fifty-four of the crimes committed in the district involved terroristic threats, felony weapons or drug incidents. Glenn Hills Middle and W.S. Hornsby K-8 schools each had one aggravated child molestation charge for incidents of oral sex.
If either school reports any similar violations or exceeds the 2 percent limitation for less serious crimes over the next two years, it will be labeled persistently dangerous by the state.
School Safety and Security Chief Patrick Clayton said the decrease in crimes at schools is mostly due to a stronger collaboration between the administration and the school safety staff.
Over the past two years, school safety officers have made more than 150 presentations to the community about gang violence among youth.
The 56 crimes reported last year represent a gradual decrease from the 69 in 2010-11, 77 in 2009-10 and 116 in 2008-09.
“I believe we’re more proactive,” Clayton said. “Instead of waiting for issues to come up, we’re trying to stop them before they start.”
However, eight schools had more criminal instances than the year before. Lucy C. Laney High, Freedom Park Elementary, Glenn Hills Middle and Hephzibah Middle schools all had an increase in felony weapons cases.
Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School went from zero crimes in 2010-11 to one in 2011-12 for a non-felony drug case. Glenn Hills Middle School had one aggravated child molestation, one terroristic threat and two felony weapons cases in 2011-12, up from zero crimes the two previous years.
Butler High School had the largest drop in crimes, from 15 to 10 cases, but for the second year in a row, it still had the highest number of cases among all schools.
Butler had seven cases of non-felony drugs, one felony drugs and two felony weapons charges.
Clayton said one factor in Butler’s persisting crimes could be demographics.
The school is surrounded by poor neighborhoods, and nearly 80 percent of students qualify for free or reduced lunch.
“Where there’s poverty, there’s usually going to be higher incidents of drugs and violence, and it seems poverty and crime go hand in hand,” Clayton said.