RALEIGH — School crime dropped this past school year, according to figures released Friday by Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata.
Tata said the overall rate of school offenses fell from 8.26 incidents per 1,000 students to 7.87 incidents. The decline in the number of violent incidents was even steeper, from 99 acts in the previous year to 41 in the 2010-11 school year.
"Make no mistake," Tata said at a news conference Friday. "It's my belief that one violent crime incident is one too many, but we're moving in the right direction here."
There were sharp drops in most categories of reported violent incidents. For instance, Wake reported eight assaults with serious injury compared with 38 the prior year. Wake also reported seven sexual assaults compared with 14 the previous year.
Wake reported 1,120 incidents of school crime, including nonviolent offenses, to the state this year. Overall, the number of incidents has fallen in recent years. It was as high as 9.61 incidents per 1,000 students in 2005-06.
Among those whom Tata singled out for praise for the improvement were the school resource officers who patrol every middle school and high school in the county.
Earlier in the week, Tata reported the results of a survey of the school resource officer program.
The school board had voted in June to have Tata review the effectiveness of the program, in which law enforcement agencies provide armed officers to patrol schools. Some board members questioned the training the officers received, guidelines on use-of-force and how often they filed criminal complaints against students.
Tata reiterated survey results in which the school resource officers received strong support from principals and assistant principals.
"I think these statistics show its effectiveness and I think the response from the principals and assistant principals show its effectiveness," Tata said of the program.
But Jason Langberg, an attorney for Advocates for Children's Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, said the school district hasn't done a thorough enough review of the program to determine if it has had an effect on reducing school crime. He said Tata should also survey parents, students and community members about the program.
"I hope you will ask for a thorough, unbiased evaluation of the (school resource officer) program, with community involvement, and then make the necessary changes to policies and practices," Langberg wrote in a letter Friday to school board members.
"We can make our schools safer and fairer."
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