Florida’s latest school safety issue – bogus reports
Florida schools cover up crimes: Rapes, guns and more Scott Travis and John Maines – Sun Sentinel
Excerpt: From rapes to arsons to guns, Florida’s school districts are hiding countless crimes that take place on campus, defying state laws and leaving parents with the false impression that children are safer than they are.
Many serious offenses — and even minor ones — are never reported to the state as required, an investigation by the South Florida Sun Sentinel found. A staggering number of schools report no incidents at all — no bullying, no trespassing, nothing.
The state largely takes the districts at their word, and state law provides no penalties for administrators who allow the lies to continue. Several districts pledged to change their ways only when confronted by journalists.
The Parkland school is rated as one of the state’s safest, but school officials had failed to record more than two dozen cases of trespassing, burglary and physical attacks over the previous three years. The district reported the offenses to sheriff’s deputies, but they were omitted from reports filed with the state.
Now the Sun Sentinel has found that school districts from South Florida to the west coast to the Panhandle are concealing similar crimes. The newspaper’s investigation found:
-- Crimes such as teachers sexually abusing students have been withheld simply because they weren’t committed by students, an omission that violates state law and masks problems.
-- On average, more than 600 schools — one in five — fail to report to the state each year, suggesting that nothing whatsoever went wrong there.
-- Many schools, seeking to protect their reputations, continue to file false information even after the state warns them against it.
Bottom Line: Once again the Sun Sentinel’s reporting on school safety and the need for accountability are unmatched. Credit where credit is due and what they found is remarkable for all of the wrong reasons. 20% of all Florida schools deliberately misreporting crimes and issues on campus? That’s stunning but sadly not shocking. School administrators have nothing but incentive, personally anyway, to bury crime stats and issues in their schools. Whether it was the $60 million cash infusion Broward received from the federal government for the Promise Program that held additional incentive for someone like Nickolas Cruz to be passed through and handled as he was by the school district – or simply to make their schools look better, safer, than they are (to create the appearance that they’re running schools well) - the motive is there. The question is what do we do about this chronic problem and how can you trust that your kids are safe – let alone receiving a decent education – if the administrators are willing to falsely crime reporting to the state?
Just last week I was highlighting the need for maximum school choice in Florida and this latest revelation only throws gas into that already hot burning fire. There are three ways that we can turn the tide of these types of issues in Florida.
- #3 – Regular auditing of reporting by schools to the state
- #2 – Holding all school administrators personally accountable for failures
- #1 – Maximum school choice
Starting with the third... Sadly, but clearly, we can’t count administrators to do their jobs and tell the truth if the information might reflect poorly on them. Regular unannounced audits on this topic specifically would be a place to start. Second, we have a crisis of accountability in our state. Consider that with all of the failures at Stoneman Douglas alone – no one has lost their job within the schools themselves. If administrators who failed to do their jobs were simply “reassigned”. That needs to stop. If administrators are cooking the books on crime stats, they need to be fired without pension or benefits as a starting point for the conservation. By not doing so they’re violating their job responsibilities, public trust and potentially are even engaging in criminal behavior themselves by personally benefiting/profiting from the failure of the first two. As soon as a message is sent loud and clear that you will be caught. Your career will end, you’ll lose any benefits accused and potentially face legal issues personally – you'll see a change. And then back to choice...
Part of the reason that we’ve had a culture created statewide that’s allowed for this type of impropriety, is due to the lack of competition to force free-market style changes. When administrators get too comfortable, complacency sets in. When complacency sets in stuff like this happens. When will we demand better? Hopefully with the choice of Richard Corcoran to head up education in Florida – we'll be able to move the needle on this issue.