Local News

Educators Vow to Fight Rising Crime, Violence in Durham Schools

Posted December 9, 2007 12:50 p.m. EST

— Crime and violence in Durham Public Schools increased by more than 12 percent last year, according to a report released last week by the state Department of Public Instruction.

DPS reported 322 crimes, violent acts and other offenses that occurred in the 2006-2007 school year, up from 286 in the 2005-2006 school year. The rate of such offenses per 1,000 students also rose from 9.187 to 10.29.

Administrators expressed concern over the rise and said they will take new initiatives and strengthen existing ones to combat the trend.

"Safety of our students and staff members is the number one priority in Durham Public Schools," Superintendent Carl Harris said in a release.

Officials pointed to three categories that declined: possession of a weapon, down 29 for a total of 131 incidents; possession of a firearm, down one for a total of five incidents; and sexual assault, down two for a total of four incidents.

All other major categories posted increases: assault resulting in serious injury, 11 incidents; assault with a weapon, 17 incidents; assault on school personnel, 20 incidents; bomb threats, 17 incidents; burning of school building, one incident; possession of alcohol, 13 incidents; possession of a controlled substance, 94 incidents; robbery without a dangerous weapon, nine incidents.

Harris said the rise in reported incidents of possession of controlled substance as an example of how enforcement is working.

"An increase in the numbers of controlled substances found is one indication that our safety and security professionals are doing a continually better job where detection is concerned," he said.

Harris asked principals to more actively employ security resources, including use of metal detectors and monitoring of hallways and restrooms while class is in session. Over the coming months, the school system will analyze the data and survey all schools to identify areas needing more support, Harris said.

DPS had already taken some measures to increase school safety this school year, including implementing a district-wide comprehensive discipline plan.

"We must continue to be evermore vigilant in taking measures to ensure the safety of our students and employees," Harris said.

The Positive Behavior Support program – in which a team focuses on improving an individual student's behavior and classroom habits – has been expanded.

Character Education, which aims to teach responsibility and compassion, continued to be in the curriculum. Elementary and middle schoolers are exposed to the Gang Resistance Education and Training Program.

Statewide, the rate of violence and crime at schools per 1,000 students decreased by 0.13 in the 2006-2007 school year. Other major school systems saw increases in crime and discipline problems, including Chapel Hill-Carrboro Schools, Johnston County Schools, Orange County Schools and Winston-Salem/Forsyth Schools.