Administrators say the expulsion and suspension data that Moreno Valley Unified School District submitted last June to the state is entirely incorrect, and that’s why many of its schools seemed to fare poorly in a just-released safety report by a think tank.
Earlier this week, the Sacramento-based Pacific Research Institute issued a survey that included 12 of Moreno Valley Unified’s schools among the top 100 schools with the most incidences of disruptive behavior, violence, vandalism and theft in 2007-08. They included Moreno Valley Community Learning Center, March Valley, Badger Springs Middle, Sunnymead Middle, Moreno Valley High, Vista Heights Middle, Palm Middle, Landmark Middle, Canyon Springs High, Valley View High, March Mountain High and Vista del Lago High.
The school district is scrambling to send the correct statistics to the California Department of Education and figure out how the snafu occurred.
“I’m embarrassed to say, it’s not just a little mistake, it’s a gross one and it doesn’t look good,” said Ken Schmidt, director of student services for Moreno Valley Unified School District. “This was not malicious or intentional.”
He said he has the right data, but is mystified as to how it got garbled and failed to raise red flags for its wild inaccuracies among district and state staff members.
Five people were supposed to check the information before it was sent to the state. “I didn’t review it at all,” Schmidt said. “I have no excuse.”
The discrepancies between the district’s real data and that sent to the state are egregious, he said. For instance, in the survey, “Not as Safe as You Think,” Moreno Valley High School ranked 11th in obscene/disruptive/hostile intimidating behavior in 2007-08. The enrollment: 2,251; the number of suspensions/expulsions, 3,363, or 149 incidents per 100 students.
The actual number of suspensions/expulsions from Moreno Valley High that year is 429, Schmidt said. The number of suspension days were 1,586, “still big, but nowhere close to 4,000,” he said.
Ultimately, Schmidt said he is worried this error could jeopardize funding after the state superintendent signs off on the data and submits it to the federal government for review. “We’re between a rock and a hard place,” he said.
The co-author of the “Not as Safe” study, Vicki Murray, expressed dismay at publishing wrong numbers and said she has posted a disclaimer from the state education department on their Web Site, https://pacificresearch.org/publications/not-as-safe-as-you-think, stating that “as with all self-reported data, errors can and do occur.”
Murray and co-author Evelyn Stacy divided the incidents into several categories, including vandalism/stealing, drugs/alcohol, violence/physical injury/weapons.
The point of the year-long survey of state education data from 10,000 schools was “not to sensationalize” or point the finger, Murray said, but to offer parents and students guidelines. Under current law, it takes a minimum of three years for any public school to be deemed dangerous. And the state’s definition of “persistently dangerous” schools is so narrow, not one of California’s 10,000 schools has been so labeled, Murray noted.
“This makes my stomach churn,” she said of Moreno Valley’s erroneous data. “Usually you see things underreported or covered up.”
Reach Laurie Lucas at mailto:[email protected] or 951-368-9569.