- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

D.C. school violence

The Heritage Foundation uncovered some alarming statistics about violence in D.C. schools by filing a Freedom of Information Act request to the Metropolitan Police Department that inquired how often officers were dispatched to school zones.

Information provided to the conservative think tank from the police department said D.C. public schools reported 3,500 incidents of crime during the 2007-08 school year, many more than D.C. charter or private schools reported.

Of the calls by public schools, 912 concerned violent incidents, including one homicide and 43 sex offenses. The commonest violent crime was simple assault; there were 648 reports of this and 114 reports of aggravated assault.

“For students heading back to school this week, many of them are going to be experiencing these things or will be around them and everyone should find that unacceptable,” said Heritage Foundation researcher Dan Lips, a co-author of the report.

Dunbar Senior High School in Ward 5 and Anacostia Senior High School in Ward 8 were listed as the two most dangerous D.C. public schools. Police responded to 55 assault calls from Dunbar and 47 from Anacostia.

One of the more shocking assault statistics, however, comes from the elementary schools. The two most dangerous elementary schools had numbers of simple and aggravated assaults higher than the middle schools. Webb Elementary School in Ward 5 reported 35 incidents of aggravated and simple assault. Moten Elementary in Ward 8 had 30. By comparison, Kelly Miller Middle School in Ward 7 had the highest number of assaults for that category with 14.

“Crime and violence appears to be a problem in a handful of schools in the District, and that should give reason for the community look at what’s happening in the less safe schools versus the others to establish some best practices,” Mr. Lips said.

The Heritage Foundation is a vocal supporter of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program, which provides vouchers to let D.C. families choose safer schools.

However, Jennifer Calloway, a spokeswoman for D.C. Public Schools, said the report distorted the data and that “school calls” do not measure actual violence in schools.

“The report uses data that reflects both what is going on in our schools’ buildings, and what is happening on the streets near our schools,” she said in an e-mail.

“Calls for service do not reflect the outcome of the response, nor does it take into consideration the time of day of the incident and whether it had any relation to school safety,” she said. “For example, the report references a homicide at an elementary school. No DCPS student or employee was killed, in reality there was a body found in the woods and the closest building happened to be our school - a very different story.”

She said the school system has experienced an 18 percent drop in serious violence.

‘Exciting’ recession

Actress Natalie Portman isn’t bothered a bit by the economic downturn. The British-based entertainment Web site Contactmusic.com reported that the starlet said, “It’s kind of an exciting time.”

“I mean, everyone is cutting back,” she said. “It’s happening in every industry — including our own. All of a sudden, people are doing jobs that they hate and they’re not making as much money as they thought they would or they’ve lost their jobs entirely. I’ve started to see people looking more toward their own passions and what really excites them.”

But Miss Portman hasn’t suffered all that much. She recently bought a “castlelike” home inside a gated community outside of Los Angeles that includes a private courtyard and two guesthouses. In Touch Weekly, a celebrity entertainment magazine, published the photos of the stunning estate this week.

Gay ice cream

A Vermont ice cream company is changing the name of one of its most popular flavors to celebrate the state’s beginning of same-sex marriage.

Ben & Jerry’s “Chubby Hubby” — which contains a mix of peanut butter cookie dough ice cream, fudge and pretzels — is now “Hubby Hubby.” The design is new, too. The “Hubby Hubby” packaging features a cartoon image of two men standing on top of a wedding cake holding a bouquet.

“At the core of Ben & Jerry’s values, we believe that social justice can and should be something that every human being is entitled to,” Walt Freese, chief executive officer of Ben & Jerry’s, said in a press release. “From the very beginning of our 30-year history, we have supported equal rights for all people. The legalization of marriage for gay and lesbian couples in Vermont is certainly a step in the right direction and something worth celebrating with peace, love and plenty of ice cream.”

E-mail etiquette

A New Zealand woman is trying to increase worker protections after being fired for sending “confrontational” e-mails to staff for using red, bold, capital letters and then winning a lawsuit for wrongful termination.

Ms. Walker, a financial controller for a health care company, got the ax for using those techniques in e-mails to subordinates instructing them how to properly fill out claim forms. She successfully sued, receiving a $17,000 award from the company for wrongful dismissal and is trying to get more compensation now from the Employment Relations Authority.

In the meantime, she’s taken up the cause for white-collar workers, citing financial, emotional and mental stress she had to endure because of her firing, according to the New Zealand Herald.

Amanda Carpenter can be reached at [email protected]


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