Violent incidents must now be recorded in New York’s annual Report Card on the schools, giving safety a place alongside test scores and other data collected to measure school performance.
The information on violence will be collected as part of the state’s sweeping new school safety laws that took effect in July.
The initiative includes a law giving teachers more latitude to deal with problem students and creates a system for reporting violent incidents that will be included on the Report Card–a highly publicized document released annually, presenting academic and financial data on local schools.
The data won’t show up until the 2003 Report Card, since reports reflect the previous year and collecting information has yet to begin. Schools will have to start keeping detailed records of violent incidents starting this September, said John Soja, supervisor of health and pupil services for the state Education Department.
Details of how this data will be presented in the Report Cards are yet to be worked out, but schools will have to include information such as the age and grades of offenders and victims, the nature and location of violent incidents on school grounds, and the disciplinary actions taken.
The reporting system is one of numerous changes ushered in by the Safe Schools Against Violence in Education, or SAVE, legislation. Other components of the SAVE laws call for mandatory fingerprinting and background checks of new school employees; character education courses to try to instill in students a sense of good citizenship and appropriate behavior; and detailed codes of conduct for how students are supposed to behave in school.
One of the first big changes starts in September, when teachers will be allowed to remove chronically disruptive or misbehaving students from their classrooms.
Teachers in classes with disruptive students frequently spend tremendous amounts of time, totaling more than half the school day, trying to maintain order and control in their classrooms, said Alan Lubin, executive vice president of New York State United Teachers, the state’s major teachers union.