Pubdate: Sat, 09 Dec 2006
Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC)
Copyright: 2006 Piedmont Publishing Co. Inc.
Author: Danielle Deaver
Note: The Journal does not publish LTEs from writers outside its 
circulation area


Most Incidents Involved Drugs or Alcohol and Few Were Violent, Report 
 From State Says

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools had an increase in  crime in 
2005-06, though few involved violence,  according to a report from 
the N.C. Department of  Public Instruction.

There were 415 acts of crime or violence on the school  system's 
campuses last year, or about 8.4 acts for  every 1,000 students, 
according to data released  Thursday by the state. In 2004-05, there 
were 6.1 acts  for every 1,000 students, although school officials 
said that the data used may have been unreliable.

About 68 percent of the incidents involved possession  of drugs or 
alcohol. There were 92 cases that involved  possession of a weapon 
other than firearms, and 24  incidents of assault on school 
personnel. There were  also a few cases of bomb threats, assaults on 
students and possession of firearms.

No crimes were reported in 35 of the school system's 41  elementary 
schools and in only one of the 18 middle  schools.

The school system's threshold for reporting acts of  crime or 
violence is lower than that of the general  public. For example, if a 
student takes a pocketknife  to school, he or she is listed as being 
in possession  of a weapon, which may not lead to a charge in the 
criminal-courts system.

Crime incidents have grown steadily for five years, and  school 
officials said they are not sure why.

"Potentially, more offenses are being committed. That  certainly is a 
possibility," said Drew Davis, a school  attorney. "Two, I think we 
have done a better job  addressing issues that occur at school. And 
NCWISE (the  computer system) is far advanced ... and allows us to 
put incidents in distinct categories,"

Superintendent Don Martin said that the school system's 
drug-enforcement program, which includes random drug  testing of 
students involved in extracurricular  activities and sports, might 
help explain the high  numbers.

"If you're aggressively catching people, your numbers  are up," 
Martin said. "I'm not saying that's why ours  are up, but ... that's 
why those numbers are high every  year. If we were low, I'd be 
concerned were we being  aggressive enough."

High-school principals make an effort to go out and  look for drugs 
on campuses, said Paul Puryear, the  assistant superintendent for high schools.

"Our board has made possession and selling of drugs a  top priority. 
They really frown on that, and principals  know that," Puryear said.

Last year, teachers at two schools were accused of  having improper 
sexual relationships with students.  Neither case appears in the 
state's report.

One of the cases, which involved a teacher at East  Forsyth High who 
agreed to surrender her teaching  license after an investigation by 
the school system,  was not in the report, partly because the 
offenses did  not occur on school grounds, Davis said.

The other case - that of Robert William Watson Jr., a  math teacher 
at Clemmons Middle School who was accused  of sex acts with students 
- - is not included in the  report for two reasons, Davis said: The 
case has yet to  go to trial, and school officials did not find 
out  about the allegations until after the June 30 deadline  for 
submitting data.

Davis said that he and Doug Punger, the school  attorney, have asked 
the state how to amend the report  should Watson be found guilty.

They also want to know whether they should include  teachers who were 
deemed guilty by the school system  but not the courts, Davis said.

School Violence

Violence grew in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools last 
year.  Acts of violence and crime include everything from possession 
of drugs and alcohol to assault and other violent offenses.

Year  Acts Of Violence And Crime  Acts Per 1,000 Students

2005-06 415  8.4

2004-05  295  6.1

2003-04  311  6.6

2002-03  251  5.4

2001-02  209  4.6
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MAP posted-by: Elaine