Saturday, June 23, 2007

In the news

This story out of Michigan is a grim reminder that college campuses can be very dangerous places, especially when the administration covers up crime details.

University Under Fire for Cover-Up

Associated Press Writer

YPSILANTI, Mich. (AP) -- For two months after Laura Dickinson was found dead in her dorm room, Eastern Michigan University officials assured her parents and the public there was no sign of foul play.

But campus police knew otherwise all along.

It wasn't until a fellow classmate was arrested in February that the truth came out: Dickinson had been .... murdered....

I've decided not to include the graphic details. Needless to say, it was ugly and in no way could be construed as natural causes like the parents were lead to believe.

Now university officials from the president on down are being accused of endangering students to protect the school's image.

"Somewhere a choice has got to be made to tell the parents," Dickinson's father, Bob Dickinson, said from the family's coffee shop in Hastings, about 120 miles from Detroit. "We always suspected something had happened besides something natural. But we had no idea what."

I've seen other stories like this. Schools (public, private, college, high school, middle school and so forth) routinely cover up major crimes in an attempt to avoid a scandal or liability. It is very dificult to find accurate crime statistics for schools.

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses.

The law is tied to participation in federal student financial aid programs, and thus it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. It is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. Yet incidents like the one at Eastern Michigan University still occur.

I was suprised to find that the laws governing the reporting of crime in public schools vary from state to state. There is no federal mandatory K-12 school crime reporting and tracking law in the United States. As a result, nobody really knows the crime rates in public school.

NCLB may contribute to underreporting of crime in public schools. Since being labeled as "persistently dangerous" has serious political and administrative implications for local school administrators, principals could be pressured to underreport school crime and violence. [National School Safety and Security Service}

Especially underreported are sexual misconduct crimes, as documented here.

I spent 30 minutes with a search in google and could not find the crime reporting laws for public schools in California. As a consumer, it makes it hard to evaluated the relative safety of various educational institutions. It is not surprising that safety is one of the major factors driving the increase of homeschooling.

Caveat Emptor!

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Maribel said...

"I spent 30 minutes with a search in google and could not find the crime reporting laws."

An idea. Have you tried requesting FOIA to unearth "crime reporting laws for public schools in California"? I am working on a post I will submit to an upcoming homeschooling carnival giving the details on how, what, where and why on how anyone, anywhere and for any reason can do so.

Janine Cate said...

What is "FOIA?"

I look forward to seeing your post.

Maribel said...

"FOIA" is Freedom of Information Act.

And I have already submitted a request to see if I can obtain documents I want, and it works. No press credientials are needed by anyone. I hope to post the details tomorow, I just need to locate a few more links.

Maribel said...

Here is the Link to FOIA
"Bloggers have a right to know"

Janine Cate said...

Thanks for the link.