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Crime in the Classrooms: A WTOL 11 Special Report

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(Toledo News Now) -

Crime can happen anywhere at any time, but it's not just on the streets. It's inside our schools.

We pored over three years of data from the Ohio Department of Education looking at 10 school districts including Anthony Wayne, Bowling Green, Findlay, Maumee, Oregon, Perrysburg, Springfield, Sylvania, Toledo, and Washington Local.

We focused on in-school, out-of-school suspensions and expulsions that related to the most serious offenses like fighting, theft, drugs, and harassment/intimidation.

In the fighting category, the districts with the most incidents are:

 

  • Washington Local with 604
  • Findlay with 563 
  • Springfield had 455

 

Looking at theft we found:

 

  • Toledo with 346
  • Findlay had 88
  • Springfield reported 82

 

With drugs:

 

  • Toledo tallied 227
  • Washington Local had 95
  • Findlay reported 84

 

The harassment category found:

 

  • Washington Local with 320
  • Findlay with 273
  • Springfield had 250

 

Keep in mind Toledo Public, Washington Local, and Findlay are in the top four of the largest enrollments among the schools we examined, but Springfield is in the top three for fighting, theft and harassment with just the 7th largest enrollment on the list.

"We do have pretty strict consequences for behaviors," said Springfield Superintendent Katheryn Hott. "Our code of conduct is pretty rigorous and we evaluate it every year with our administrators and take a look at areas that we need to address," she added.

Superintendent Hott also said Springfield is in its first year of an anti-bullying and prevention program, it's restructuring the counseling program to hit behavior intervention among other issues, and two administrators just came back from a national program where -in part- they learned more about the negative effects of social media in schools.

The Ohio Department of Education told us each district and school building has its own definition of what qualifies for each problem area.  There's no state template to follow.  With that in mind, we added in the overall category called "disruptive behavior" that led to suspensions or expulsions.

Out of all the individual schools, two really stood out from the rest.

Our investigation revealed 3,433 reportable problems during the past three years coming out of Leverette, a K-8 school in North Toledo.  That's close to 1150 per year but the enrollment only averaged 396 students each year.

"You've got to let the teachers know you're involved," said Elena Rodriquez whose son attends Leverette.  "You've got to let your children know you're involved so everybody behaves," she told us.

Read the FBI's breakdown of crimes in schools and colleges here

Shyanna Martin has two kids in Central Toledo who go to Jones Elementary which is the other school that stood out in our study.

There were 3,411 incidents during the three years with an average enrollment of 341.

"I don't feel like it's the teachers' fault.  I feel like it (goes) a lot further than that," Martin told us. "Until the parents or whoever in charge of the children is ready to address it with the kids, there's not really too much the teachers can do," she added.

Read a crime research report on the incidence of violent crime in Ohio schools in 2006

As we drove the neighborhood around Jones, it didn't take long to see lots of boarded up houses, police, arrests, and graffiti which many consider all kinds of life obstacles.

"Students do come to school with challenges," said TPS Asst.. Superintendent Brian Murphy.  He said two years ago when TPS combined middle school students with elementary students for the new K-8 schools, that's when Leverette and Jones saw a spike in problems. 

"Most of the 7th and 8th graders now have two to three different teachers," said Murphy.  "The day is much more structured and they don't get as much freedom throughout the day," he told us.

Murphy said the district has tested a new, proactive "Positive Behavior Intervention Support" program this year that sets expectations standards for behavior and curriculum.  "(In) 5 of the 6 schools, we've seen a significant decrease in suspensions," Murphy explained.

Parents told us they hope it all works because they feel the current discipline problems take away from what should be happening in the classroom for students.

"They get less of what they need as far as attention, teaching, and learning because there are so many other problems with other children," Rodriquez said.

Link to Ohio Department of Education Data here.

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Copyright 2013 Toledo News Now. All rights reserved.

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