Defining dangerous down

Violent crime is common at Locke High in Los Angeles, but the school doesn’t qualify as “persistently dangerous.” Terence Jeffrey writes:

In 2000-2001 at Locke, there were 13 sex offenses, 43 robberies, 2 weapons possessions, 57 batteries, and 19 assaults with a deadly weapon. In 2001-2002, there was 1 sex offense, 10 robberies, 31 property crimes, 19 batteries, and 3 assaults with a deadly weapon.

Statistics are not yet available for 2002-2003, but in April, the Los Angeles Times reported that a “melee” broke out during the lunch period at Locke. It involved as many as 300 students “with teenagers allegedly swinging pipes and bats at one another,” reported the paper. School officials believe the report was exaggerated.

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, students enrolled in a “persistently dangerous school” have the right to transfer to a safer school in the district. But each state defines dangerous. California says a “persistently dangerous” school must “expel more than 1 percent of its students for any of nine types of crimes in each of three consecutive years.”

Locke rarely expels violent students. Instead, they’re given “opportunity transfers” to other public schools; the worst kids may be sent to continuation school or adult education. Or they keep right on attending Locke. Since almost nobody is officially expelled, the school isn’t officially dangerous.

There are no “persistently dangerous schools” in Arkansas, Georgia, Florida and Illinois either.

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