When Gov. Ron DeSantis petitioned the Florida Supreme Court to impanel a statewide grand jury to investigate “crimes and wrongs” related to school safety, one of the potential violations listed might surprise parents:
Incidents occur at schools and school officials are supposed to report those incidents to the Florida Department of Education. But apparently, that’s not happening at all schools.
The statewide grand jury expects to examine “whether school officials violated — and continue to violate — state law by systematically under-reporting incidents of criminal activity to the Department of Education,” according to the governor’s petition for a statewide grand jury.
The South Florida Sun Sentinel, which has been covering the Feb. 14, 2018 tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has looked in-depth at what’s really going on with school-reporting.
“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,” the newspaper stated in an article late last year.
“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,” the newspaper reported.
In addition, “The state largely takes the districts at their word, and state law provides no penalties for administrators who allow the lies to continue.”
Many parents may have no idea what’s been going on with incidents at their schools, but there is a place to get at least some information.
The Florida Department of Education lists the types of crimes and other serious issues of student conduct that must be reported, ranging from incidents reported to law enforcement to drugs, hazing, bullying, weapons, sexual assault, physical attacks and gang-related incidents.
Parents can also go online and look at the number and types of incidents at their schools and districts.
For example, 2016-17 data posted online at the Florida Department of Education show that 23,455 incidents at schools were reported to law enforcement statewide, with the largest number of incidents related to drug use and/or possession, battery, and disruption on campus, such as bomb threats or inciting a riot.
The spreadsheets also include district incidents and individual school incidents reported.
At issue is whether the data is missing incidents, which will be investigated when a statewide grand jury convenes.