UPDATE: Scroll to the bottom of this post to see a response from Durham Public Schools security director Tina Ingram.
Last week a students at Southern High School was charged with carrying a loaded gun to school. In tomorrow's Durham News we're following up with a story that shows crime and violence in Durham Public Schools rose 20 percent last year from the previous year.
There are 17 acts that school systems must report to the state Department of Public Instruction. Those reports are available to the public on the department's web site. The incidents that must be reported included possesson of drugs, alcohol and/or weapons, various kinds of assault and arson, among other incidents.
In 2007-08, DPS reported 388 total acts. That was up 20 percent from 322 acts in 2006-07, according to the data. Statewide, reported incidents of crime and violence rose just 1 percent.
Weapons possession, which started us on the story and can include anything from box cutters to handguns, accounted for 147 incidents last school year in the Durham Public Schools. That was up 12 percent from the previous year's 131 incidents.
Of course higher numbers can mean a bigger problem or just a better job of discovering problems. We've called DPS security director Tina Ingram this morning to ask her what she makes of the statistics. [SEE UPDATE BELOW]. We'll also have more on this story in tomorrow's Durham News. In the meantime, what questions do you have about our local schools' safety? Tell us now and we'll share your questions with Ingram.
UPDATE: Good information from security director Tina Ingram just now on the phone. She agrees the numbers alone don't tell whether Durham has a growing problem or is just detecting more incidents. But she did say last year's spike reflects the first year metal detectors were added to the middle schools. Before that, the detectors were at high schools only.
"We did expect to have an increase because we were looking for the contraband more aggressively and more frequently," she said.
I asked for a breakdown showing a) how many of DPS incidents last year were at the middle school level and b) what types of weapons were involved in the incidents. She said those are also available on the state web site, which I'll try to look later today.