No schools 'persistently dangerous'

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No school in Richmond or Columbia counties will be deemed “persistently dangerous,” but each school system did report more than 100 serious criminal offenses for the 2008-09 school year.

Columbia County’s offenses spiked, jumping 65.7 percent from 67 offenses reported a year ago to 111 this year, the most since 2006. The total number of offenses in Richmond County, however, dropped 14.7 percent to 116, the lowest since 2003.

Schools systems are required by law to report serious offenses to the state by the end of June each year. The information is used to determine whether a school should be labeled “persistently dangerous” in following the guidelines of No Child Left Behind.

Drug offenses accounted for the largest increase in Columbia County.

“While we are not proud of any drug-related offense that might occur, when you consider a system of 22,000-plus students, our numbers are significantly low,” Columbia County Superintendent Charles Nagle wrote in an e-mail. “This should not be taken as an excuse or that we are satisfied with having a low number of offenses. One offense is too many.”

Mr. Nagle said the numbers might also be misleading.

“When comparing last year’s numbers to this year’s, the high schools were relatively the same, with the exception of Harlem High,” he said. “The middle schools reflect drug offenses that sometimes involved more than one student for the same offense, such as three students passing one pill, resulting in having to report three incidents.”

Mr. Nagle said that it’s a challenge each year to keep the number of serious offenses down but that there are coordinated efforts to do just that.

“Our principals, faculty and staff take great efforts to encourage a focus on learning and helping students make good choices in every area of their life,” he said. “We will continue to do so the coming year and, no doubt, for as long as we are in this business.”

Aside from drugs, Columbia County only had a handful of offenses.

Drugs accounted for a majority of Richmond County’s offenses also, but its biggest improvements were seen in the areas of felony weapons and terroristic threats.

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