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 or rape, or when at least 2 percent of students, or 10 students, whichever is greater, are found to have committed certain criminal offenses, such as drug possession or terroristic threats.
No Richmond County school was labeled persistently dangerous, and all but six schools had fewer crimes in 2010-11 than the previous year.
In 2010-11, there were 69 incidents districtwide identified by the state as “dangerous,” compared with 77 in 2009-10 and 116 in 2008-09, according to a state-required Unsafe School Report The Augusta Chronicle obtained from school board attorney Pete Fletcher.
School Safety and Security Chief Patrick Clayton said the decrease in serious crimes is the result of a heightened effort by school safety officers and administrators to push a no-tolerance policy toward crime.
Since 2009, a gang task force has been assigned to the schools to conduct interventions and prevention activities with students.
“We feel like taking those steps to reduce the gang influences in the schools will actually pay off in dividends in other areas of drug and weapon crimes,” Clayton said.
Systemwide in 2010-11, Richmond County had five fewer weapons cases than the 24 incidents in 2009-10.
However, felony drug cases increased from seven to 13 in 2010-11 while nonfelony drug offenses dropped from 39 to 31.
Butler High School had the most offenses, at 15, including seven nonfelony drug, five felony drug and three felony weapons cases, which was a substantial increase from the two crimes in 2009-10.
Cross Creek High, Glenn Hills High, Morgan Road Middle, Tutt Middle and Terrace Manor Elementary schools had slight increases in dangerous crimes in 2010-11.
Terrace Manor had one crime, which was a felony weapon incident, in which a fifth-grader brought a gun and ammunition to school.
Glenn Hills High School was the only school placed on a first-year notice list, for a child molestation case that occurred in 2010-11 at the school. If the school has any similar violations for the next two years, it will be placed on the persistently dangerous list.
In the molestation case, three male students engaged in oral sex with two female students, according to the unsafe school report.
Because of the students’ ages and the act of oral sex, it was classified as a child molestation case, although Clayton said the students were charged with misdemeanors.
Although crime has not been eradicated, Clayton said the lower number of offenses in Richmond County schools shows the positive changes also happening in the community.
“What’s going on out there in the city is going on in our schools,” Clayton said. “All the types of violence are things we’re trying to keep out of the schools.”