- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 30, 2003

RICHMOND (AP) The Virginia Board of Education adopted criteria yesterday for identifying “persistently dangerous schools,” whose students would be entitled to transfer to a safer learning environment.
   The federal No Child Left Behind Act requires states to allow students to transfer out of unsafe public schools. The federal statute also says students who are victims of violent crime on school property must be allowed to transfer, a requirement already imposed by state law.
   Under the policy approved by the board, schools will be assigned points for violent crimes and drug-dealing on campus during school hours or activities. Schools exceeding a point limit, based on enrollment, for three consecutive years will be labeled persistently dangerous.
   Schools are required to report crimes to the state Department of Education. That data will be used to determine which schools, if any, are the first to be branded chronically unsafe.
   Board members said they are not worried about administrators looking the other way when crimes occur to keep their schools under the point threshold.
   “Administrators are scared not to report these incidents now because of grass-roots pressure to have safe schools,” board member Thomas M. Jackson Jr. said.
   He said school officials also know that covering up crimes could result in civil liability and statutory penalties far worse than the stigma of a “persistently dangerous” designation.
   The policy establishes three categories of crimes:
   Category I: Homicide, sexual assault and use of a bomb. Any offense in this category will automatically put the school, regardless of size, over its point limit.
   Category II: Battery with a firearm or other weapon, aggravated sexual battery, malicious wounding without a weapon, robbery and attempted robbery, and kidnapping or abduction. Each violation is two points.
   Category III: Illegal possession of a weapon and drug possession with intent to sell or distribute. Each violation is one point.
   The point threshold for the second and third categories is one point per 100 students. For example, a school with 1,000 students would have a 10-point threshold. Three robberies and five drug-dealing offenses would put the school over its limit, with 11 points.
   Schools exceeding their point limits the first year will be warned and will be required to submit a plan to correct the problems. Schools exceeding the threshold a second consecutive year will be placed on probation and be required to take additional corrective measures.
   Cynthia A. Cave, the department’s policy director and architect of the policy, said the analysis of the past three years of crime data should be complete by June. She said some schools are likely to be warned but that she doubts any will be deemed persistently dangerous.

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