The scandal in Loudon County, Virginia, where the school superintendent and school board covered up the rape of a student, has made national headlines. National data indicates that such cover-ups may be occurring more frequently than the public realizes.
In the Loudon County case, in June the local superintendent and school board openly denied that any sexual misconduct had occurred in school bathrooms. In truth, a sexual assault had occurred the previous month. The teenage perpetrator was recently convicted of that sexual assault and is set to face another sexual assault charge that allegedly occurred at a second school in the district.
In October, students in Loudon County walked out of school in protest chanting: “Loudon County protects rapists.” One student yelled, “Why didn’t anybody tell us?”
It turns out that covering up crime on school campuses may be more widespread than just this one highly publicized incident.
Federal data lists school crime by “recorded incidents” and “reported incidents to police.” There is a wide disparity between these two sets of figures.
In 2017-18, the last year with available federal data, 962,300 violent incidents were recorded at public schools. In contrast, only 192,100 violent incidents were reported to police. These incidents do not just involve slap fights in the hallway.
There were 7,100 sexual assaults (other than rape) that were recorded by public schools, but only 5,600 that were reported to police.
Schools recorded 10,500 physical attacks or fights with a weapon, but only 2,400 were reported to the police.
Short of a physical altercation, schools recorded 26,700 threats of physical attacks with a weapon, but 12,400, less than half, were reported to police.
Among non-violent crimes, schools recorded 100,600 incidents of vandalism, but only 27,300 incidents were reported to police.
Schools recorded 132,500 incidents of theft and larceny, while reporting to police only 53,900 incidents.
While these discrepancies are startling, the stories of victims are truly disturbing.
In my upcoming book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities I profile a mom whose son was put on a “kill list” by another student. As shocking as the kill list were the actions of school officials.
In the immediate aftermath of the discovery of the kill list, this mom said that school officials “treated all the kids that were on the kill list as if they were the problem.”
“One of my friend’s sons,” she said, “they actually pulled him into the office that day because he was number one on the kill list and they treated him like he was the problem.”
She reported that the school never got to the bottom of why her son was on the list.
Worse, the alleged perpetrator was never put through the criminal justice process.
Instead, according to the mom, “what was extra frustrating was that [school officials] wanted her son to do restorative counseling with this boy.”
Restorative justice is an alternative to traditional punishment and focuses on addressing the alleged harm through collaboration and communication processes. In other words, actual harm is addressed with a lot of talk.
A meeting was set up between this mom’s son, the alleged perpetrator, and a school counselor. After the session, her son said that he did not feel that anything changed with the perpetrator. The school then failed to do anything about the perpetrator.
Said the mom: “They just let it go. They never punished the student. They didn’t suspend him. They didn’t expel him. He truly had no consequences for his actions, other than everybody knowing what he’d done.”
“That really frustrated me,” she said. The school believed that the alleged perpetrator was “already having a hard time as it is and so we don’t need to add punishment on top of it.”
But, said the mom, the alleged perpetrator “needs to know what he did was wrong and the only way to do that is if he had some sort of punishment.” Unfortunately, “he never got any punishment.”
Not surprisingly, this mom decided to homeschool her son after this appalling incident.
Survey data show that safety is the top reason why parents decide to homeschool. With public schools failing to address the campus crime wave, look for the homeschool boom to only increase.
Lance Izumi is senior director of the Center for Education at the Pacific Research Institute. He is the author of the new PRI book The Homeschool Boom: Pandemic, Policies, and Possibilities.