Originally created 11/23/05

Schools in S. Carolina see decline in violence



CHARLESTON, S.C. - The number of aggravated assaults and incidents of forcible sex in South Carolina schools dropped by more than half in the past four years, but reports of drug and weapons offenses increased substantially, Education Department officials said.

Violent crime rates in schools have mirrored a national downward trend to their lowest levels in a decade, a report released Monday said.

The number of homicides and kidnappings in the state's 1,100 schools remained essentially flat between the 2001-02 and the 2004-05 school years, while the number of robberies fluctuated, spiking in 2003-04 before tapering last year.

A recent federal report shows a plateau in the national school crime rate since 2000. That report, issued by the U.S. departments of justice and education, reviewed crimes against 26.4 million pupils between ages 12 and 18 in 2003.

One school safety expert says the national numbers are misleading because they are based on limited surveys and 2-year-old, self-reported data. Kenneth Trump, the president of National School Safety and Security Services, a Cleveland, Ohio, consulting firm, said the annual report also omits the dramatic jump in deaths attributable to school violence.

According to Mr. Trump, this number has leapt from 16 in the 2002-03 school year to 49 and 39, respectively, in the past two school years.

Educators and school safety experts say national numbers have declined because of an increased presence of school resource officers, programs designed to curb aggression and bullying, greater cooperation from students and heightened security measures.