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HCS high schools see more police activity

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By Bob White

 

INFO BOX. POLICE CASE REPORTS BY SCHOOL AND YEAR   John Hardin High School   2007 (Student Population: 1,271) Disorderly Conduct – 2 Assault – 3 Mental Inquest Warrant – 1 Terroristic Threatening – 3 Theft – 8 Criminal Mischief – 2 Drug Offenses – 2 Tobacco Violation – 1 (possession and/or use of tobacco by a person under-18 is a citable offense per Kentucky Law) Total RPD case reports for JHHS in 2007: 30   2008 (Student Population: 1,247) Disorderly Conduct – 5 Juvenile Pickup Order – 1 Drug Offense – 4 Assault – 7 Criminal Trespassing – 1 Rape (report only) – 1 (unsubstantiated per RPD) Receiving Stolen Property – 1 Theft – 9 Mental Inquest Warrant – 1 Wanton Endangerment – 1 Curfew Violation – 1 Unlawful Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds - 2 Total RPD case reports for JHHS in 2008 (as of Nov. 1, 2008): 34   North Hardin High School   2007 (Student Population: 1,300) Assault – 11 Harassment – 2 Theft – 15 Criminal Mischief – 3 Alcohol Intoxication – 1 Terroristic Threatening – 3 Disorderly Conduct – 5 Burglary – 1 Tobacco Offense – 2 Total RPD case reports for NHHS in 2007: 43   2008 (Student Population: 1,348) Drug Offense – 2 Unlawful Possession of a Weapon on School Grounds – 1 Assault – 2 Disorderly Conduct – 2 Total RPD case reports for NHHS in 2008: 7

Elizabethtown High School   2007 (Student population: 700-735) Assault – 1 False Report – 1 Drugs – 1 Trespassing- 1 Rape – 1 (unsubstantiated) Traffic Collision – 1 Total EPD case reports for EHS in 2007 - 6

2008 (Student Population: 700-735) Juvenile problem (unspecified) - 1

Drugs - 1 drug related

Criminal Mischief - 1

Terroristic Threatening - 1

Hit and Run - 1

Theft - 1

Total 2008 EPD case reports for EHS as of Nov. 1, 2008: 6  

Central Hardin High School   2007 (Student population: 1,639 10 drug related Receiving Stolen Property – 1 Drugs – 8 Assaults – 7 Terroristic Threatening – 1 Burglary – 1 Thefts – 4 Criminal Mischief – 1 Total 2007 EPD case reports for CHHS: 23   2008 (Student Population: 1,698) Criminal Mischief - 5

Terroristic Threatening - 1

Accidents - 10

Assaults - 7

Drug Related - 5

Theft - 11

Harassment - 2

Wanton Endangerment - 1

Receiving Stolen Property - 1

Missing Person - 1 Total 2008 EPD case reports for CHHS as of Nov. 1, 2008: 44   Total police reports to HCS and EHS high schools in 2008 (As of Nov. 1): 91   Total police reports to HCS and EHS high schools in 2007: 92 

Sources: Elizabethtown and Radcliff police departments.        By BOB WHITE

bwhite@thenewsenterprise.com

HARDIN COUNTY – While student populations at county high schools on average double that of Elizabethtown High School, county students are five times more likely to see police working cases at school than their EHS counterparts.

According to figures provided by Radcliff and Elizabethtown police departments, a mere six police reports were filed at Elizabethtown High School  in each 2007 and so far this year.

Far more police reports are filed at John Hardin, Central and North Hardin high schools — an average of 32 police reports  were filed at each school last year.

John Hardin High School and Central Hardin High School also are on their way to having even more police reports filed in 2008. As of Nov. 1, 2008, there had been 44 police reports filed in 2008 at Central Hardin. Another 34 had been reported so far this year at John Hardin.

North Hardin, where 43 police cases originated in 2007, shows a decrease in police activity in 2008, with seven case reports as of Nov. 1.

A possible contributing factor to the high number of police cases filed at Hardin County Schools is the HCS systems’ employment of trained school resource officers, called SROs for short.

SROs have been employed by HCS since 1994. Along with investigation of suspected criminal activity in schools, SROs are used in classroom instruction, general security, driver safety and other roles. Most of the officers work added shifts with local police agencies and are paid separately for work with schools.

Elizabethtown High School does not employ trained police or SROs, so decisions to report suspected criminal activity is up to school administrators, rather than a trained officer.

Hardin County Schools Superintendent Nannette Johnston attributes the high numbers of police cases at county high schools to SRO involvement.

“We … mean business,” Johnston said. “We’re having our resource officers do some things we would have normally done in-house. We want students to know they’re coming to school to work and not to play around. We value the partnership we have developed with our resource officers.”

While a trained officer might be more prone than school staff to report criminal activity to respective law enforcement agencies, Kentucky law (KRS 158.154) mandates reports to law enforcement when principals have “reasonable belief” that a specified offense has occurred.

Of the 85 HCS cases reported in 2008, at least one-third fit criteria for mandatory reporting to a law enforcement agency. Those cases include assaults, drug use or possession, wanton endangerment and instances when mental inquests or juvenile pickup are required to be made by a law enforcement officer.

According to EPD records, EHS reported to police only one drug violation each year for 2007 and 2008.

Drug abuse is the most common law violation in all Kentucky schools according to a 2007 report by Kentucky Center for School Safety (KCSS.) Assaults and theft constitute a close second and third, respectively, according to the same report.

In total, EPD records show only six cases stemming from EHS each year for 2007 and 2008. In 2005-2006, there were no police reports made within EIS schools, according to the KCSS report. Although a minority, about a dozen other school systems of less than 2,500 students also reported no law violations in that same school year. Some of those systems did not include high schools.

“EHS data may be too good to be true, but it is what it is,” said interim EIS Superintendent Bill Twyman. “For example, there have been no fights in the building this school year.”

According to KCSS, an average of one student per 100 in all schools — elementary, middle and high schools — is disciplined for law violations at school.

High school-specific averages for law violations are unavailable in the report, but most violations of both board policies and Kentucky law are made by high school students, specifically freshmen, the KCSS report shows.

Twyman recognized the mandatory reporting requirements of state law. He said he believes EHS is following the reporting requirements.

“Anything having a legal requirement to report, I want us to do it,” Twyman said.

Twyman added that he was unsure if the stats were “that out of line” with statewide averages.

With high schoolers constituting the majority of student law violations in all Kentucky schools, EHS reflects a low instance of police case reports – less than one percent, which is less than the average of all schools, elementary through high schools, statewide.

No rewards,

no penalties

Kenneth Trump, a prominent school safety expert and consultant, said under-reporting of crime by schools is widespread.

“The problem with state school crime reporting requirements is simply that there are few, if any, rewards for schools that accurately report crimes and no meaningful consequences for those that fail to do so,” Trump states on his Web site, www.schoolsecurity.org. “Even in cases where local daily newspapers have investigated and identified gross inaccuracies in local school district crime reports to states and to police, most school districts are quick to claim ‘clerical errors’ or a ‘lack of understanding of the law and guidelines’ for reporting --- and nobody is ever significantly held accountable with substantive consequences.”

Johnston noted the value of accurate reporting of criminal activity at schools.

“Reporting (crime) sends students a message that their behavior is not acceptable and they can’t just get away with it,” he said. “It also helps us identify problems so we can develop interventions while the students are in our care.”

After talking with EHS staff, Twyman said he found no indication of “deliberate efforts to keep reportable offenses from police.”

Contrary to the lack of rewards in place for schools accurately reporting crime,  schools with consistently high crime stats  can be held accountable under provisions of No Child Left Behind Act.

 Bob White can be

reached at (270) 505-1750.