Violent acts such as physical and sexual assaults are down in Ashe County Schools, but drug and alcohol-related crimes increased from 2011-12 through last year.
The N.C. Department of Public Instruction (N.C. DPI) released its 2012-13 Report of School Crime and Violence, earlier this month. The report documents the incidents of reportable acts of crime and violence in all 115 school districts across the state.
According to a press release published by the N.C. DPI, “The total number of acts of school crime and violence was the lowest reported since 2008-09, while the number of students in N.C. public schools was at an all-time high — 1.5 million.”
The state lists 16 criminal acts, which schools are required by law to report, that range from the most severe — murder and rape — to the most benign — simple possession of drugs or alcohol.
In 2012-13, there were a total of 33 reportable acts in ACS, and 3,167 students enrolled. That’s four more acts and 64 more students than in 2011-12.
“The high school has the highest number of incidents due to it having the most amount of students,” Superintendent Dr. Todd Holden said.
“We’re doing our jobs,” Holden said about N.C. DPI’s transparency through making such statistics public. “We’re not gonna try to hide anything, not gonna misinform the public. We want them to know.”
In 2012-13, there were 20 reportable acts at Ashe County High School (ACHS), 12 at Ashe County Middle School (ACM), none at Blue Ridge Elementary, one at Mountain View Elementary and none at Westwood Elementary:
• ACHS: One assault on school personnel, seven incidents of possession of an alcoholic beverage, 11 incidents of possession of a controlled substance and one incident of possession of a weapon.
• ACM: One assault on school personnel, nine incidents of possession of an alcoholic beverage and two incidents of possession of a weapon.
• Blue Ridge: No acts were reported at Blue Ridge last year.
• Mountain View: One incident of possession of a weapon.
• Westwood: No acts were reported at Westwood last year.
Holden said one of the greatest concerns with the most recent report was with offenses related to consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages.
“This is good data to have so we can look at possible interventions for students who are using alcohol at an early age,” Holden said.
Most of the weapons confiscated in the district are small pocketknives, mostly used for fishing and mistakenly brought onto campus by students.
“Sometimes kids make mistakes,” Holden said. “I’m very thankful that we don’t have guns on our campuses.”
The good news is that the number of violent assault and sex offenses is down from six assaults in 2011-12 to two, last year.
In 2011-12, there were 29 reportable acts in ACS:
• ACHS: One assault on school personnel, six incidents of possession of an alcoholic beverage, seven incidents of possession of a controlled substance, one sexual assault and three sexual offenses.
• ACM: One assault resulting in serious injury, one assault on school personnel, one incident of possession of an alcoholic beverage, two incidents of possession of a controlled substance and two incidents of possession of a weapon.
• Blue Ridge: No acts were reported at Blue Ridge in 2011-12.
• Mountain View: Two incidents of possession of a weapon.
• Westwood: Two incidents of assault on school personnel.
Holden said Alexander County is a good measuring stick with Ashe County. While it’s slightly larger than Ashe County, it’s demographically similar. Last year, there were 57 reportable acts in Alexander schools and 5,320 students enrolled.
Reportable acts increased in Watauga and Wilkes counties and remained the same in Allegheny County from 2011-12 to 2012-13.
Watauga County Schools went from 31 reportable acts (4,392 students) to 42 reportable acts (4,380 students) in 2012-13.
In Wilkes County Schools, reportable acts slightly increased from 75 (9,812 students) in 2011-12 to 79 (9,760 students) in 2012-13.
In Allegheny County Schools, there were seven reportable acts (1,428) in 2011-12 and seven (1,392) in 2012-13.
Going forward, Holden said the key is educating students and the community about the merits of a safe school environment. He’s also optimistic that the numbers will begin to improve in the very near future.
“We gotta make sure we educate the public,” Holden said. “I think what we will see, is our number will go down.”
Holden is also thankful that the two governing boards which oversee the school system provide funding for security personnel in the schools.
“I want to commend the county commissioners and school board for providing us with school resource officers,” Holden said.
The full report, as well as reports from previous years is available to view online at the N.C. DPI’s website at www.dpi.state.nc.us/research/discipline/reports.
Alan Bulluck can be reached at (336) 846-7164 or on Twitter @albulluck.