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Parents in Jacksonville public schools might be disturbed by data from the state Department of Education relating to school safety.

This city had the highest rate of school safety incidents in the state in 2017.

The School Environmental Safety Incidents Rate data are for sexual battery, battery, weapons possession and fighting during the school year (September-June).

With more than 12,000 incidents, Duval had a rate of nearly 95 per 100,000 students. The next nearest rate was in tiny Gadsden County. Other large districts had much lower rates.

The rate for the state as a whole was about 25.

The trend also is puzzling. In 2006, there were 7,589 incidents. It went down until 2014, then took a huge jump the following year, from 4,608 incidents to 11,537. The rate actually declined in 2017 from 102.2 the previous year.

Another data point of concern is that in 2016 Duval County Public Schools had the lowest rate in the state for reporting fights to the police

Under the peculiar definition used by the Florida Department of Education, “reported to police” apparently doesn’t mean reported to police. Instead it means that no action was taken by the police on matters reported to them.

The state definition reads:

Reporting to Law Enforcement – “Reported to Law Enforcement”, means that an official action was taken by a School Resource Officer (SRO) or a local Law Enforcement Officer such as: a case number was assigned, a report was filed, an affidavit was filed, a civil citation was issued, an investigation was conducted and found to be an incident reportable to SESIR, or an arrest was made. The presence of, notification of, or consultation with a Law Enforcement Officer or SRO, is not sufficient for an incident to be coded as “Reported to Law Enforcement.”

Why aren’t the police taking action? The head of the police union told Fox 30 TV that school resource officers are being pressured not to take action.

Fox 30 quoted Fraternal Order of Police President Steve Zona as saying, “They’re terrified to come forward and talk about this, but it’s an artificial suppression of the numbers and the crime. They have to actually ask permission to make an arrest in the schools, through the rank of a lieutenant or higher, sometimes,” 

Whether that is true or not, the questions parents might be asking are: Why are so many incidents occurring in local schools compared to other districts and why is so little action being taken?  

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Lloyd Brown
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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida.  He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union.  He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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