Elkin City Schools and Bridges Academy ended the 2014-15 school year with no reportable incidents to be submitted for the state’s school crime report, according to data released March 3 by the state Department of Public Instruction.
On the other hand, Yadkin County Schools had the highest acts of possession of controlled substances of the area school systems, while Surry County Schools had three reports of possession of a firearm.
Reportable acts of school crime, short-term suspensions, expulsions and the use of corporal punishment increased in 2014-15, according to the DPI release, with the number of long-term suspensions decreasing slightly in the Consolidated Data Report.
“The total number of reportable acts of school crime increased 2.1 percent, the first increase in three years, while the number of students in North Carolina public schools was at an all-time high of 1,537,643,” reported DPI.
Reportable acts are categorized as possession of a weapon, possession of controlled substance, possession of alcoholic beverage, assault on school personnel, assault resulting in serious injury, sexual assault, assault involving use of a weapon, sexual offense, possession of firearm, robbery with a dangerous weapon, taking indecent liberties with a minor, rape, death by other than natural causes, kidnapping, bomb threat and burning of school building.
Locally, Elkin City Schools and Bridges Academy, which is a charter school in State Road, had no reportable incidents in any of those qualifying categories.
“Basically I think it speaks to not only the expectations of the school of appropriate behavior for students, but more importantly how the students hold themselves accountable,” said ECS Superintendent Dr. Randy Bledsoe. “It is a combination of all of us working together to make sure our kids understand the expectations of not only academics, but their actions. It is part of the total child development and what we want to do is help our students to understand that making a great decision is important to not only today, but tomorrow.”
Bledsoe said the lack of reportable crimes is “another great accolade for our school system. It is another thing that all of us who already are proud of Elkin City Schools can give us that much more pride now at what’s happening in our schools on a daily basis.”
He added it’s a “reflection of the expectation of teachers, administration, parents, the community, but really the students are the ones carrying that out and living by those expectations and we are very proud of the students at all the schools.”
Yadkin County Schools saw 39 reportable acts of possession of a controlled substance, according to the state report. And that’s a focus Superintendent Dr. Todd Martin said the schools are working diligently to address.
“There was no single event, just really an effort of us trying to be more diligent and trying to take a hard stance against this,” he said, noting that he encourages the principals to follow up on any report of an incident to ascertain whether it’s true and take appropriate action to address it.
“I’ve told the principals there is no place for drugs of any kind or alcohol in our schools,” Martin said.
He said while the number of reportable incidents for drugs is higher than other systems in the area, he said, “I don’t think it indicates we have a higher prevalence of drugs in our schools. If we get a report, we go after it pretty hard.”
In a break down of the individual schools, Forbush High had 20 acts, Starmount High had 12, and the others were spread between Forbush Middle, Starmount Middle and Yadkin Success Academy.
“Most of it does occur at the high school. We don’t have a drug testing program or anything like that. We have had discussions but we haven’t put anything in place,” Martin said. “We are working with Roman Gabriel III of Boone who is with a nonprofit group who comes out and speaks to the high schools and middle schools, and we are looking for a possible speaker in the spring with a focus on sports enhanced drugs.
“We are trying to focus the students’ attention on the dangers of using these,” he said.
Most of incidents of reportable acts have been small amounts of marijuana, Martin reported, with a few instances of pills. And they aren’t always on the students, some have been located in their vehicles on campus.
“Again it’s not like they’re bringing a lot, and it’s individual students making bad decisions,” he said. “It is against the rules and against the law, and we handle that. We do the best in being accurate in what we report, we don’t shade anything one way or the other. Data like this helps us identify where we need to focus our attention, and our principals do a good job at reporting accurate data.”
Yadkin also had 10 acts of possession of a weapon, which Martin said is generally students bringing pocketknives because they forget they are in their pocket or they’ve gotten a new one and make a bad decision to bring it to show off to their friends.
The difference in possession of a weapon and possession of a firearm is weapon is items like BB guns, airguns, knives, while firearm is the actual gun which uses an explosive to discharge a projectile, Martin said. Yadkin had no reports of firearm possession, while Surry County Schools had three, two at Surry Central High and one at North Surry High, and Mount Airy City Schools had one at B.H. Tharrington Primary School.
Other reportable acts at Yadkin included three assault on school personnel and four possession of alcohol.
In Surry County Schools, reportable acts included 24 possession of a controlled substance, 15 possession of weapon, 12 possession of alcohol, three possession of firearm, two assault on school personnel, one assault resulting in serious injury and one bomb threat.
In Wilkes County Schools, reportable acts included 25 possession of controlled substance, 24 possession of weapon, four possession of alcohol, and two assault on school personnel.
In Mount Airy City Schools, reportable acts included 10 possession of weapon, one sexual assault, one possession of firearm, one possession of controlled substance, and one assault on school personnel.
At Millennium Charter Academy in Mount Airy, there were no reportable acts.
Wendy Byerly Wood may be reached at 336-258-4035 or on Twitter @wendywoodeditor.