KCTV5 discovers violent school incidents missing from records - KCTV5

KCTV5 discovers violent school incidents missing from state records

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A KCTV5 review of local police records discovered that the Kansas City School District possibly failed to report all violent crimes to Missouri's education agency.

The U.S. government requires districts to provide key information on reported crimes.

In Missouri, the Department of Elementary and Secondary maintains the files.

The district discipline incident files include data from every public school when it comes to weapons, drugs and violent acts that occur on campus.

KCTV5 News investigative reporter Eric Chaloux dug through Kansas City Public Schools' file and noticed some possible missing incidents when it came to the violent act category.

DESE's website shows KCPS reported no violent acts to the state during the last school year. Late Wednesday afternoon, KCPS says that number should be 15 incidents, but they provided no documentation to back up that figure. Through a Sunshine Request, KCTV5 finally obtained the documents the next week that showed 15 Safe Schools violations. DESE has yet to reply as to why there are conflicting numbers.

That the state keeps the records is something few parents may know about. And some parents said they weren't aware of issues at their children's schools.

"I haven't heard of any violence," said LaKesha Allen, a parent with several children in the district.

KCTV asked Allen about some crime data KCTV5 discovered involving violent acts reported to Kansas City police on campus. She did not recall hearing about any incidents.

"If that type of violence is taking place in the schools, it's going to be reported some way," Allen said.

KCPS sent home 10 letters to parents about incidents on campus.

The district said those letters included mention of a report of a neighborhood pedophile, a student in possession of a BB gun (three times), reports of attempted abductions, a reported "unknown gas" (it was dry ice), a driver pointing a gun at students as they walked to school, a bus caught on fire, an intoxicated person attempting to enter a bus, a bomb threat, a student in possession of a loaded gun, a student in possession of an unknown chemical, a parent behaving inappropriately and a sexual assault.

But not all incidents KCTV5 discovered in records provided by police were mentioned in those letters to parents. Click here to see the file.

According to incidents reports, officers were called 464 times to KCPS buildings. There were reports taken for property damage and many non-violent incidents.

Police reports paint a much different image than the numbers shown on the DESE website.

Reports show officers took 90 assault, nine robbery and 10 aggravated assault reports filed at campus buildings.

"All school districts are required to inform law enforcement if the students' behavior would violate state law. For example, a fight within a school does not violate state law. They are simply handled at the school level and subsequently reported to DESE," Kansas City schools Superintendent Stephen Green said.

Click here for a statement from Green regarding the safety of the district's schools and how the school system records and reports safety data.

KCTV5 made requests for interviews to Kansas City Public Schools' officials about the difference in the data.

Instead, Andre Riley, at the time spokesperson for KCPS, responded via email to KCTV5.

"Even with violent incidents, we may not call them the same thing - they use a legal definition while we follow the definitions of DESE and the student code of conduct," he said.

Green said while both organizations have accurate data, it's not possible to form an apples-to-apples comparison as the data that is pertinent to the specific organization may different.

"This core data is forwarded directly from our student data computer system, with no adjustments," Green said.

Tom Ogle, DESE Director of School Data, said the data is relatively accurate.

"The districts are overwhelmingly trying to do the best they can, to provide this along with other required data," Ogle said.

Ogle says DESE staff does review the information. 

"So if they were reporting five instead of six, it would be hard for us to know," he said.

Carol Lloyd, executive editor of the nonprofit Great Schools, which ranks public and private schools, said maybe the district felt a little embarrassed.

"And they want to keep it in house and don't want to alarm parents," Lloyd said. "But the reality is transparency builds trust."

Great Schools researchers discovered that when violence or bullying occurs in any form on campus, a child's learning suffers.

Lloyd said parents need to make sure they ask their school about plans for alerting them about dangerous acts on campus.

"Parents don't know how to find the information, or schools aren't doing enough to communicate that, out on an incident-by-incident basis," Lloyd said.

Former FBI agent Michael Tabman feels parents should be made aware when the threats have been confirmed.

Tabman now consults for school districts around the country evaluating their security measures. He feels after each incident parents and students should be made aware.

"They have to know that it's been addressed, the fact we're just keeping tabs or statistics doesn't help the student," Tabman said.

To search district discipline incident in Missouri, click here. For Kansas residents, the data can be found here, just search for your district.

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