Thursday, August 28, 2008

State Releases Annual List of "Persistently Dangerous" Schools

PS9 in Maspeth Included, Jamaica High Removed

By Conor Greene

Sixteen city schools, including one in Maspeth, have been named “persistently dangerous” in an annual reported released by the state.

A total of 19 schools around the state - down from 27 last year - have been identified in the report, which is required under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Within the city, 15 schools reported a large enough decrease in violent incidents to warrant being removed from the list, including Jamaica High School.

The state uses a formula involving the number of violent incidents and a school’s enrollment to determine which should be considered “persistently dangerous.” Schools that have approximately six violent incidents per 100 students are included. Violent incidents include homicide, sexual offenses, robbery, assault, arson, and possession of a weapon. Students are given the option of transferring out of dangerous schools provided there is room at an alternate venue.

The state’s list is based on reports provided by the schools, leading to some concern that administrators underreport the number of incidents to avoid being placed labeled as dangerous. In contract, the city designates what it calls “impact schools” using date gathered from police reports.

There were no Queens schools added to the list this year, while Jamaica High School was removed after reporting a decrease in crime. In Maspeth, PS 9 Walter Reed School is on the list for the second consecutive year.

“School leaders have responded and as their schools become safer for children they come off the list,” said state education commissioner Richard Mills. He said the department will conduct audits of safety reports submitted by schools and vowed, “If we find underreporting, the list will get longer. Children must have safe schools.”

All schools designated as “persistently dangerous” are required to provide school choice to students if transfer options are available. Each school also receives financial support and technical assistance from the state to improve safety.

According to information provided by the state education department, there were three reported sexual offenses at PS 9 during the 2006-07 school year, the latest for which statistics are available. In addition, there was one assault resulting in serious injury, one assault with a weapon, 20 assaults without weapons and 14 minor altercations involving weapons. The school’s enrollment that year was 430 students.

Like the majority of city schools included in the list, PS 9 is part of the city’s District 75, which serves 23,000 students with moderate to severe special needs challenges in 350 schools citywide.

For details about the report, check

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