With continued discussions focused on keeping the county’s schools safe from external threats, new information released by the N.C. Department of Public Inspections shows the Ashe County school district has one of the highest crime/violence per student ratios in the state.
According to the 2011-12 Consolidated Data Report, which was presented to the N.C. State Board of Education on Dec. 10, Ashe County’s school district has the 98th highest crime and violence per student ratio out of 115 N.C. school districts.
“We’re always looking for ways to improve, and hopefully those numbers will be down by next year,” said Donnie Johnson, Ashe County’s interim superintendent.
There were 29 total acts of crime and violence from the county’s 3,103 students.
The 29 criminal/violent acts included:
- one case of assault resulting in serious bodily injury
- four cases of assault on school personnel
- seven cases of possession of alcoholic beverages
- nine cases of possession of controlled substances
- four cases of possession of weapons
- one case of sexual assault
- three cases of sexual offenses
The rate of 29 criminal/violent acts per 3,103 students equals a ratio of 9.346 acts per 1,000 students. Compared to other school districts, Ashe County had one of the highest ratios per 1,000 students. Only 17 school districts had a higher ratio than Ashe County’s.
“Our numbers in possession of alcohol and controlled substances were clearly the two highest (categories) for us,” said Johnson. “Each case is different. Some of the controlled substance violations turned out to be prescription drugs the students were using.”
Of the 29 crimes and violent acts, 18 were committed by high school students, seven were committed by middle school students, two acts were committed by both Westwood and Mountain View Elementary Schools’ students, and no acts were committed by students from Blue Ridge Elementary School.
According to Johnson, the school board has been placing a greater focus on the county’s health curriculum. The ninth grade health education class will remain mandatory for graduation, and a new curriculum for sixth graders will place a greater emphasis on drug and alcohol prevention.
Also, the West Jefferson’s ABC store has provided the school district enough funding to bring a guest speaker to talk about the outcomes of drug abuse.
Johnson was also encouraged because the Ashe County School District didn’t have any reports of more serious cases like deaths by unnatural causes, assault using a weapon, possession of firearms, robbery, kidnapping, rape, indecent liberties with a minor, bomb threats or burning of a school building.
The number of crimes committed by students in the Ashe County School District has held a consistent average of 29 reported acts since 2008-2009. The student-to-crime ratio has also remained consistent, swaying between 8.442 and 9.775.
While the rates in Ashe County have stayed the same, the rates in North Carolina have decreased overall.
“The total number of reportable acts of school crime and violence, short and long-term student suspensions, and expulsions all decreased in 2011-12,” said the N.C. DPI’s release.
According to the Consolidation Data Report, the total number of acts of school crime and violence was the lowest reported number since 2008-09.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said there are two clear facts when it comes to high student achievement.
“Students learn best in an environment where they feel safe and supported, and students not in school are at greater risk for dropping out. It is gratifying to see these numbers continuing to decline and I encourage educators to continue their efforts to keep schools as safe as possible and to encourage positive student behavior,” said Atkinson in the release.
Key findings from the Consolidation Data Report show that:
Crime and violence
- The total number of reported acts of crime and violence decreased by 4.3 percent to 11,161 from 11,657 acts in 2010 -2011. The rate of acts reported per 1,000 students also decreased by 5 percent to 7.63 from 8.03 the previous year.
- Schools are required to report 16 offenses that occur on campus or school property. Of those reported, violent offenses account for 3.7 percent or 416. The most frequently reported acts involved illegal possession of controlled substances, weapons (excluding firearms and powerful explosives) or alcoholic beverages and accounted for almost 84 percent or 9,361 of the total number of reported acts.
Suspensions and expulsions
- Short-term suspensions (10 days or fewer) among students in all grades decreased in 2011-12. The total went from 266,488 to 258,197 – a 3.1 percent decrease. Of that total, 127,223 can be attributed to high school short-term suspensions (a 2 percent decrease from 2010-11). The average duration of a single short-term suspension was 2.73 school days.
- Long-term suspensions (11 days or more) among students in all grades declined 38.6 percent from 2,621 to 1,609. High school students received 1,177 long-term suspensions (a 34.6 percent decrease from 2010-11). The average duration of a long-term suspension was 53.8 school days.
- Expulsions also declined from 69 in 2010-11 to 30 in 2011-12 – a 56.5 percent decrease. High school students received 24 of these expulsions.
- In 2011-12, 404 uses of corporal punishments were reported, a 54.7 percent decrease from the 891 reported in 2010-11. Of the 296 students reported as receiving corporal punishment, 230 received corporal punishment once, while 66 received it two or more times.
- Corporal punishment was used at least once by 12 school districts in 2011-12. Charter schools and the remaining 103 districts did not use corporal punishment.
- The use of corporal punishment is a local school board policy.
Ashe dropout rate
Unlike the rates of student crime and violence, which have remained constant in Ashe County’s school district, the number of high school dropouts at ACHS has decreased over the past three years.
This decrease is thanks, in part, to the high school’s graduation coach Larry Dix.
When Dix arrived at the high school for the 2009-2010 school year, there were 55 dropouts. One year after the programs implementation, the number of high school dropouts decreased to 48 students, and then 35 students in the 2011-2012 school year.
“I really enjoy being a resource and possible change agent for one of our most prized resources: our young people,” said Dix.
Dix has been applauded for his efforts by fellow staff members. Principal Jason Krider said “hopefully, the fruits of our labor will continue to show.”
State dropout rate
The dropout rate also improved throughout North Carolina in the 2011-2012 school year.
According to the Consolidated Data Report, the annual high school dropout rate decreased from 3.43 percent to 3.01 percent for 2011-12, representing a .42 percentage point decrease.
“High school students understand the connection between a diploma and the ability to reach their goals. Principals, teachers and support staff should be praised for their efforts to ensure that students are staying on track to complete their education and achieve success after graduation,” said Atkinson in the release.
Other highlights at the state level include:
- A total of 13,488 high school students dropped out in 2011-12 as compared to 15,342 students in 2010-11 (12.1 percent decrease).
- There were dropout count decreases in 70.4 percent (81 of 115) of school districts.
- Excluding the newly reported Pacific Islander group, black students had the largest percentage decrease in dropout count (16.1) followed by white students (10.8) and Hispanic students (9.7).
- Males accounted for 60.3 percent of reported dropouts, which was slightly up from 60 percent in 2010-11.
- Students dropped out most frequently at grade 10 (28.6 percent) followed by grade 9 (26.7 percent), grade 11 (25.3 percent) and grade 12 (17.3 percent).
- Attendance was the reason most cited for dropping out (41.5 percent).