By sheer numbers, Wilkes-Barre Area School District had the most “misconduct incidents” in 2006-07, according to the latest school safety report issued by the state Department of Education.
The only surprise may be that Hazleton Area, with about 3,200 more students, had fewer incidents: 80. Greater Nanticoke, with only 2,215 students, also had 80.
The bigger surprise arguably is that Northwest Area, Luzerne County’s smallest district with only about 1,500 students, had an outsized incident count of 91, which is 6 percent of the total enrollment. Wilkes-Barre Area’s 116 incidents, by comparison, is a scant 1.7 percent of total enrollment.
Not that Northwest Area kids have run amok. The bulk of the incidents are comparatively benign, all things considered: 20 cases of disorderly conduct, 15 of bullying, 15 of harassment. Eleven fall under the “fighting” category. There were two weapons possessions, both involved knives.
Weapon possessions were highest in Hazleton Area, with a total of 9 knives. Wilkes-Barre Area had the second highest with six knives. Crestwood was third with four.
There was only one firearm possession reported in all 11 districts, and that was a handgun at Dallas, which, incidentally, had by far the lowest number of reported incidents, only six, representing two tenths of a percent of the total enrollment.
If you throw the three area career centers into the mix, Wilkes-Barre Area Career Center has the county’s highest rate of incidents, 9.6 percent of total enrollment. Hazleton Area Career Center has a rate of 5.9 percent, and West Side has a rate of 1.7 percent. There were only two weapons possessions among the three schools, both knives, one at Wilkes-Barre area and one at West side.
The numbers are self reported, and filing the report is mandatory. Under the federal law known as No Child Left Behind, the state had to set up a system for declaring schools as “persistently dangerous”(Pennsylvania uses data from three years in making the determination), and getting such a label means that, theoretically, parents have the right to transfer their children out of that school.
No district or school in Luzerne County has ever made the persistently dangerous list. In fact, statewide this year only 12 schools did.
The fact that all the data is self-reported has generated criticism over the years because different schools can and have reported similar incidents differently. One school’s fight may be another school’s harassment. The state tried to address those concerns in 2005 by tightening the definitions of the various offenses.
Complete reports are available at www.safeschools.state.pa.us