Per student, Mohawk Valley public and charter schools spend more on security and face fewer violent and disruptive incidents than most areas of the state.

Schools in Oneida, Herkimer, Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties spent $6.74 per student on things such as security cameras and safer doors during the five years ending with the 2017-18 school year, according to a report on school safety released Tuesday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. That does not include the cost of school resource officers and other money spent on security personnel.

That’s more than any region and far above the statewide average of $3.34 per student. The lowest spending region was Western New York at $1.89 per student.

VIOLENCE

The Mohawk Valley also had fewer incidents, such as assaults, sexual offenses and bomb threats, than most regions during the 2017-18 school year with 9.5 incidents per 1,000 students for a total of 589 incidents. That’s fewer than all regions except the North County (9 incidents), Long Island (6.1 incidents ) and the Mid-Hudson region (7.6 incidents).

“Violence of any kind has no place in our schools, and the public rightly demands that school officials take the necessary steps to protect all students and faculty from threats,” DiNapoli said in a statement. “In order to learn effectively, students need to feel safe. Sadly, many students and faculty are confronted with violent and disruptive activity on a regular basis.”

The report also broke down incidents by type for each region and by district characteristics, such as urban/rural/suburban schools and socioeconomic status. In the Mohawk Valley, the greatest number of incidents involved the use, possession or sale of drugs or alcohol (3.5 per 1,000 students) followed by assaults (2.9 per 1,000 students). Some regions had more assaults than illicit substance incidents.

FOCUS ON SECURITY

Schools have been more focused on improving school security and school climate since the tragic mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, last year, said Robert Lowry Jr., deputy director for advocacy, research and communications for the New York State Council of School Superintendents. In a council survey, 59 percent of superintendents said their districts’ 2019-20 budgets included money to improve school security — an increase not covered by this report, he said.

“That was the first time in eight years that a majority of superintendents said that they saw their budget improving for any student-related service,” Lowry said.

Will the report help districts?

“School district officials are living with these issues day-to-day, so I’m not sure that it, per se, informs them more, but it does provide information to the public,” Lowry said, acknowledging that he hadn’t read the report thoroughly yet. “And some of it does provide perspective, such as comparing regions and characteristics of districts in terms of incidents.”

But trend data would be even more helpful, he said, adding that he would like to know whether incidence of certain kinds of incidents, such as bullying or assaults, is going up or down.

Lowry speculated that per-pupil spending on security was probably relatively high in the North Country because the districts are so small and certain costs remain fixed no matter how many students attend a school. That doesn’t necessarily explain the high spending, though, in the Mohawk Valley, which has more bigger districts, he said.

THE SAVE ACT

The state’s Safe Schools Against Violence in Education, or SAVE, Act, adopted in 2000, requires public and charter school to document and report incidents that are violent or disruptive.

The report found that just over one in four public and charter schools, or 1,210, reported no violent or disruptive incidents; elementary schools and low-need schools were most likely to have had no incidents. In the Mohawk Valley, 36.6 percent of schools did not report incidents; only Long Island, Mid-Hudson and the North Country had more schools without incidents.

Statewide, the report found that schools spent $27.1 million spent on improved building security over five years and faced 32,084 incidents, including 14,144 assaults, 7,006 cases of students with illicit substances, 5,464 incidents of weapons possession, 4,583 sexual offenses, 692 false alarms, 194 bomb threats and one homicide.

Read the report here.

 Contact reporter Amy Neff Roth at 315-792-5166 or follow her on Twitter (@OD_Roth).

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Incidents in Oneida County

More detailed New York State Education Department data (not included in a recent comptroller’s report) details incidents within Oneida County public and charter schools during the 2017-2018 school year:

• Discrimination, harassment, bullying (non-cyber): 276

• Physical assault: 111

• Use, possession or sale of drugs: 95

• Non-forcible sexual offense: 45

• Cyberbullying: 45

• Weapons possession: 50

• Use, possession or sale of alcohol: 28

• False alarm: 9

• Forcible sexual offense: 3

• Bomb threat: 3