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Kids or criminals

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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Clery's murder prompted a nationwide backlash against unreported crime on campuses and led to not only this law, but to revised school codes for all school districts, including in Michigan. Coupled with the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, it led to legislative revisions of the Michigan School Code, Public Act 451 of 1976, to require that "the superintendent of public instruction shall consult with local and intermediate school districts and law enforcement officials. The reporting shall include at least crimes involving physical violence, gang-related activity, illegal possession of a controlled substance or controlled substance analogue, or other intoxicant, trespassing, and property crime including...theft and vandalism."

The definition of school crime can differ by school districts and personnel, depending on what is considered a crime. Definitions can range from a threat to student, to theft, to considering only violent crimes that are reported to police as crimes. The crime statistics list helps determine what the state is looking for on an annual basis.

The Crime, Violence and Discipline Task Force created by the National Forum on Education Statistics developed definitions and protocol for collecting school crime and violence in 1995, setting a standard for schools to follow. It recommended that school crime be inclusive of incidents that occur on school grounds, on school transportation, or at off-campus school-sponsored events; incidents involving alcohol, drugs or weapons; incidents involving a gang; hate crime motivated incidents; and all incidents reported to law enforcement.

A primary goal of the crime statistics listing, according to the Michigan legislation, is to "Foster the creation of partnerships among schools, school districts, state agencies, communities, law enforcement, and the media to prevent further crime and violence and to assure a safe learning environment for every pupil." It is compiled and held for the state and educators by the Center for Educational Performance and Information (CEPI), but Lauren Leeds said they are strictly a data agency, and don't comment on policy.

Bill DiSessa of the Michigan Department of Education said the department works to try to improve safety and protocol with school districts, but maintains crime statistics are largely a local issue. "Bottom line, while we care, we are charged with caring with certain items and not with others," he said. "It's primarily local issues. While districts are required to report their statistics, the specifics are enforced by local police departments. If there is a gun incident in Grand Rapids today, we care about it, but there's nothing we can do. It's local police."

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