Published 12:00 am Friday, March 4, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
Local school systems saw a decline in the number of reported criminal and violent acts last year, but statewide those numbers are up by 4.4 percent, according to data released by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction this week.
The Rowan-Salisbury School System had 109 criminal incidents for a rate of 5.39 per 1,000 students, a decrease from 118 acts for 5.72 percent the previous year.
“A positive and safe learning environment is the right of all students and should not be violated by negative student behavior,” Dr. Walter Hart, assistant superintendent of adminstration for the district, said in a press release. “While our district has a wide array of support in place to help students, those who chose to commit inappropriate actions are going to be reported as required by law and disciplined accordingly.”
Statewide, total reported acts went from 11,116 for a rate of 7.59 per 1,000 to 11,608 for 7.97.
Kannapolis City Schools also saw a drop from 56 reported acts for a rate of 11.08 per 1,000 students to 47 acts for a rate of 9.32.
The rates are calculated using an average student population.
Rowan-Salisbury has more than 20,000 students while Kannapolis has about 5,000.
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The Safe Schools Act requires districts to report 17 specific acts of crime and violence to the State Board of Education each year.
Those acts range from homicide to sexual offenses and bomb threats.
Statewide, the most frequently reported crimes last year included possession of a controlled substance, possession of a weapon, possession of alcohol, assault on school personnel and assault resulting in serious injury.
Last year, Rowan-Salisbury reported the following incidents: 80 acts of possession of a controlled substance, 12 acts of possession of alcohol, 11 acts of possession of a weapon and three of acts possession of a firearm.
There was one report of assault resulting in serious injury, assault on school personnel and sexual offense.
Carson High School reported the highest number of criminal acts with 26, followed by West Rowan High with 14, East Rowan High with 10, North Rowan High and Southeast Middle with nine and Henderson and Corriher-Lipe with seven.
Salisbury and South had the lowest reports for of criminal acts at high schools with five and four, respectively.
Four elementary schools had criminal incidents. Koontz had two while Faith, Granite Quarry and North Rowan each had one.
East Rowan High had the highest number of criminal acts in 2008-09 with 35, followed by Carson High with 24, West Rowan Middle with 16 and South Rowan High with 15.
Last year, Kannapolis schools reported the following: 29 incidents of possession of a controlled substance, 12 acts of possession of alcohol, and six acts possession of a weapon.
The district’s only high school, A.L. Brown, reported the most criminal acts with 29, dropping from 44 in 2008-09.
Kannapolis Middle and Kannapolis Intermediate were the only other schools that reported criminal incidents. They each had 16 and two, respectively.
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Suspensions dropped both locally and statewide.
There were nearly 400 fewer short-term suspensions in Rowan-Salisbury last year, declining from 4,719 in 2008-2009 to 4,327.
The district’s long-term suspensions fell by two from 22 to 20.
Short-term suspension is classified as 10 days or fewer and long-term is defined as 11 days or more.
Kannapolis had more than 300 fewer short-term suspensions and three times the number of long-term suspensions last year.
Last year, 1,041 students received short-term suspension, compared to 1,344 the previous year. Long-term suspensions fell from nine in 2008-2009 to three.
Statewide, the number of students receiving short-term suspensions declined from 293,453 to 277,206.
Long-term suspensions also fell from 3,592 to 3,368.
Although neither district reported any expulsions, there were 88 across the state.
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Rowan-Salisbury school officials attribute the decline in both criminal acts and suspensions to programs to reach at-risk students.
The district’s federally-funded LINKS (Learning, Intervention, Nurturing, Knowledge and Student Achievement) program provides additional counselors and intervention specialists to help meet individual students’ needs.
The school system touts volunteer mentors as another key resource in keeping crime in schools down.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.