Schools Should Set and Enforce Clear Expectations on School Crime and Discipline Reporting

The intentional and unintentional under reporting of school crime and disciplinary incidents is a recurring problem in American schools as well as in other countries.  There are so many pressures on school administrators relating to school safety statistics that some school leaders choose to intentionally reduce the number of reportable incidents through policies designed to drive numbers of incidents down as well as less formal approaches.  At the same time, school officials sometimes simply do not know how to establish and implement appropriate reporting guidelines. 

In either instance, the results can be the same.  School leaders cannot have reliable data if a viable reporting system is not in place and enforced.  This frequently leads to serious safety incidents like school shootings, accidental deaths and serious injuries, sexual assaults on campus and a host of other situations that typically become publicized in the local media and by word of mouth in the community.  Of course, the next problem school officials usually face is that a plaintiff’s legal counsel may be able to demonstrate that the under reporting of crimes sets the stage for the safety incident which can have great relevance during ensuing litigation.  One of the things an expert witness often attempts to evaluate in a school safety civil action is whether the school organization had a reasonable and appropriately managed incident reporting system in place to help school leaders more accurately evaluate risks so proper prevention measures could be implemented. 

Having an attorney prove that school officials violated state law by not reporting criminal incidents or disciplinary infractions can be damaging to the defense in these types of situations.  Though it can be painful for school officials to adopt and maintain an above board reporting approach, it can be far more painful to have a tragedy reveal that this type of approach is lacking.

About Michael Dorn

Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a non-profit school safety center. The author of 27 books on school safety, Michael’s campus safety work has taken him to 11 countries over the past 34 years.