Updated: 6:16 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, 2010 | Posted: 2:52 p.m. Monday, Aug. 23, 2010
Target 11 Investigates: School Safety Reports
Target 11 has obtained school safety reports for all of the schools in Pennsylvania. Channel 11's Rick Earle went through the records and found out what crimes are happening inside of Pittsburgh-area schools and what authorities are doing about it.
According to the school safety reports from the 2008–2009 school year, Gateway and Shaler tied for the most assault and fights involving student. Both schools had 32 on record for the year. Norwin had the second most with 20.
Woodland Hills had the most assaults on staff members with 15. Woodland Hills also topped the list with nine weapons found on campus including guns, knives and cutting instruments.
Officials from the school district said that among those 15 assaults on staff members, all were minor incidents and no one needed medical attention.
At Shaler there were five weapons found in the 2008–2009 school year and Gateway, Baldwin and Norwin each had three.
Norwin also had the most thefts with 13. Shaler had eight and Gateway had 7.
Under the category of sex offense, Gateway had three sexual harassment cases. Shaler had one, plus an open lewdness record. Norwin and Bethel Park each had one open lewdness.
California University of Pennsylvania criminal justice professor Dr. Emily Sweitzer reviewed the reports and said that some schools are doing a much better job at dealing with school violence than others.
"I was surprisingly, positively shocked in that I didn't see a lot more of the serious violations," said Sweitzer. "There's more than just filling out discipline slips. They are contacting parents, they're having school counseling. It's very proactive. These are the same schools where you see the incidents at a decrease for behavior acts."
According to Sweitzer, over the past five years there's been a decrease in the amount of weapons being brought into schools but an increase in fighting and bullying.
School leaders said they're dealing with bullying by implementing programs into the schools that teach students to identify and report bullying at an early age.
"That's really my hope, that if we establish that behavior, that pattern early, then it's not you against me, we are all here together to make a peaceful environment," said Deborah Sagan, safe and drug free schools coordinator at North Allegheny School District.
At Norwin High School, the leaders responsible for keeping students safe said they know that with 1700 students there will be some problems. But they said administrators at the school work hand-in-hand with police and the local magistrate.
The principal said they also have a probation officer in the school several days a week to work with troubled students. He said teachers are also trained each year to respond to emergencies.
"We do take it seriously from the time the kids enter the building until the time they leave and beyond. The kids know we mean business and they respond very well," said Principal Ed Federinko.
That's a message school violence victim Phylicia Taylor hopes will make others think about before they turn to violence.
Taylor said she was pushed down a flight of stairs at Penn Hills High school then kicked and punched by a fellow student.
"My back got bruised and my elbow was bleeding and there was a bruise on my side," said Taylor. "She took a simple school fight to a whole new level by pushing me down the steps; anything could have happened."
The student accused of pushing Taylor was suspended from school. She also is facing a hearing in Juvenile Court.
According to the school violence records, Fox Chapel High School had the fewest incidents, listing only eight fights and no other violations.
The report is located on the left hand side of the page. Click on "school safety history." To find a specific school, click on the year then "public schools." The schools will be listed in alphabetical order.