State Comptroller Exposes Albany School District for Dramatically Underreporting Violent Incidents
Statement from the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability
For Immediate Release: May 22, 2006
Contact: Andrea Rogers, Research Associate
In the newly released audit by State Comptroller Alan G. Hevesi on the underreporting of violent incidences in New York schools, the Albany City School District has been singled out as one of the state’s most egregious offenders.
The Comptroller’s report declared that Albany High School “should have been placed on the preliminary list of persistently dangerous schools on the basis of their 2003-04 data.” State auditors found that 780 violent incidents were not reported at the school during 2003-04. During that school year, Albany High reported only 144 incidents to the New York State Education Department.
“This apparent cover-up of school violence at Albany High School shows a lack of truthfulness on the part of district officials,” said Andrea Rogers, research associate with the Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability. “Parents deserve an accurate reporting of all violent incidences that occur on school premises. They have a right to know just how dangerous their child’s school really is and what school officials are doing about it.”
There clearly is a need to bring the Albany City School District to account. “The State Education Commissioner has every reason to release a revised list of ‘persistently dangerous’ schools for the year covered by this erroneous data,” Rogers said. In addition, the district’s lack of accountability on this issue may suggest the need for a broader audit of its financial and enrollment reporting.
Attached are excerpts from the Comptroller’s report directly relating to the Albany City School District and the incidences at Albany High School.
Selections from New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s Audit Finding that the Albany City School District Reported False Data to the State Education Department Regarding Violent Incidents
(Source: Office of the State Comptroller, Reporting of Violent and
Disruptive Incidents by Public Schools, Report 2005-S-38, May 22, 2006)
“Albany High School reported 144 violent and disruptive incidents for the 2003-04 school year… However, records maintained at Albany High School indicated that, during the 2003-04 school year, a total of 924 violent and disruptive incidents occurred at the school… Thus, 780 of the 924 documented incidents (84.4 percent) at Albany High School were not reported to SED” (pp. 8-9).
“At Albany High School, the Violence Index was incorrectly calculated…because 20 serious incidents were not reported to SED and on one serious incident was not properly classified on the annual incident report… Thus, it appears that [Albany High School] should have been placed on the preliminary list of persistently dangerous schools on the basis of their 2003-04 data. We recommend SED review [the] school’s incident records of the 2003-04 school year and determine whether the school should in fact be placed on that list. We further recommend that SED visit both schools to verify the incident data that was reported for the 2003-04 school year, because…the schools could be designated as persistently dangerous. If schools that should be designated as persistently dangerous are not so designated, the schools will not be required to develop an Incident Reduction Plan and parents of the children attending those schools will not be given the option of sending their children to other schools. In addition, the parents in those districts may believe that the schools are safer than they actually are. It is therefore critical for schools to report all their violent and disruptive incidents to SED” (p. 10).
“[I]nformation needs to be accurately reported if it is to be used as intended, and some classification errors can be significant, as was the case with the misclassified sexual offense at Albany High School” (p. 10).
“We found that the reporting process at many of the districts do not fully comply with SED’s reporting guidelines, and as a result, the districts frequently fail to report incidents that should be reported… For example, officials at the…Albany [school district] do not report incidents that result in a full day of in-school suspension, regardless of the nature of the incident” (p. 11).
“A total of four schools outside of New York City were designated as persistently dangerous in 2005.” Albany’s Philip Livingston Magnet School is one of the four designated persistently dangerous schools (p. 20).
The report finds that Albany High had 10 victims of violent crimes that were not reported to the State Education Department, all of which have a federal right to a public school choice transfer to a safe school.
“According to the provision of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act, if a student is a victim of a violent criminal offense at a public school, the student’s parents should be given the option of sending the student to another school… If schools fail to report to SED either their violent criminal offenses or the number of victims of such offenses, there is less assurance the schools are complying with the Federal No Child Left Behind Act and offering the victims’ parents the option of sending the victim to other schools. If this offer is not made, it would be unfair to the victims and their families. In addition, New York State could lose federal education funding if it does not comply with provisions of the Federal No Child Left Behind Act.”
The Albany City School District failed to report to the State Education Department 780 or 84.4 percent of the 924 violent or disruptive incidents that occurred to in the 2003-04 school year, including:
- 2 sexual offenses
- 6 assaults with serious physical injury
- 106 assaults with physical injury
- 16 incidents of reckless endangerments
- 25 incidents of criminal harassment
- 55 incidents of intimidation, harassment, menacing or bullying
- 14 incidents of burglary, larceny or other theft offenses
- 12 incidents of criminal mischief
- 1 bomb threat
- 528 other disruptive incidents
The Foundation for Education Reform & Accountability (FERA) is an independent, nonprofit, research organization dedicated to improving education in New York State by promoting accountability, stimulating innovation, and supporting school-choice efforts across the state