COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120
SUPTS. MEMO NO. 86
May 9, 2003
Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
Unsafe School Choice Option: Identification of Persistently Dangerous Schools
The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, at Title IX, Section 9532 requires each state receiving funds from the act to establish and implement a statewide Unsafe School Choice Option Policy. Specifically, the requirement states:
(a) UNSAFE SCHOOL CHOICE POLICY- Each State receiving funds under this Act shall establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that a student attending a persistently dangerous public elementary school or secondary school, as determined by the State in consultation with a representative sample of local educational agencies, or who becomes a victim of a violent criminal offense, as determined by State law, while in or on the grounds of a public elementary school or secondary school that the student attends, be allowed to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary school within the local educational agency, including a public charter school.
(b) CERTIFICATION- As a condition of receiving funds under this Act, a State shall certify in writing to the Secretary that the State is in compliance with this section.
The Virginia Board of Educations statewide policy, adopted May 23, 2002, on students attending a persistently dangerous public elementary school or secondary school or becoming victims of a violent criminal offense while in or on the grounds of a public elementary school or secondary school, is to provide those students with the opportunity to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary school within the local educational agency.
The Board of Education on March 26, 2003, reviewed a proposal for the procedure and criteria to identify persistently dangerous schools. On April 18, Informational Superintendents Memorandum No. 65 provided a copy of this proposal, called Persistently Dangerous Schools, Identification Process and Criteria under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001.
At its April 29, 2003, meeting, the Board approved the proposal with minor editorial changes and the addition of criteria that become effective with the 2003-2004 school year.
The approved plan contains the following changes:
The terms for some incidents have been changed to align with the definitions for these offenses provided in the 2002-2003 Annual Report on Discipline, Crime, and Violence. Specifically, the terms rape and attempted rape have been replaced with sexual assault offenses.
Effective with the 2003-2004 school year, three incidents have been added to the criteria: aggravated sexual battery, malicious wounding without a weapon, and illegal possession of controlled drugs and substances with intent to sell or distribute.
The process for identifying schools remains the same as described in the proposal, with the use of data on incidents to be applied as follows:
Data collected for the 1999-2000 school year and reported in the Annual Report on Discipline, Crime, and Violence will be used as baseline data for determining whether there are persistently dangerous schools. Since the schools must be identified for the first time by July of 2003, the first round of school identification will use available data on reported incidents from the 1999-2000, 2000-2001, and 2001-2002 annual reports. These incidents include homicide, sexual assault offenses, and use of a bomb or explosive device; assault with a firearm or other weapon, actual and attempted robbery, and kidnapping/abduction; and illegal possession of a handgun, rifle/shotgun, projectile weapon, bomb, or other firearms.
Beginning with the school year 2003-2004, the Annual Report on Discipline, Crime and Violence will be modified to add certain incidents that are felonies and to clarify definitions of these incidents for separate reporting of their occurrence. These incidents are malicious wounding without a weapon, aggravated sexual battery, and illegal possession of controlled drugs and substances with intent to distribute or sell. The crimes will be added to the criteria for identification of persistently dangerous schools when the data are collected for the report.
The Virginia Board of Educations established thresholds of incidents per year will be used to identify a persistently dangerous school over a consecutive three-year period. A copy of the approved plan is attached.
Data provided by school divisions for the Annual Report on Discipline, Crime, and Violence for the past three years is currently being reviewed. Should your division have a school that is identified as being Cautioned, On Probation, or Persistently Dangerous, you will be contacted prior to June 30, 2003.
Questions may be directed to Arlene Cundiff, coordinator, safe and drug-free schools program, 804-225-2871 or (firstname.lastname@example.org).