Thursday, April 3, 2014

Are charter schools safer?

At Lake Norman Charter School,  where almost 1,600 students in grades 5-12 went to school last year,  the only criminal or violent acts reported in 2012-13 were two cases of weapons other than guns.

At the nearest Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools in Huntersville,  Alexander Middle School had four weapons incidents.  North Mecklenburg High reported eight students caught with drugs,  three with alcohol,  three assaults on school personnel,  one gun,  one other weapon and one assault resulting in serious injury.  Lake Norman's rate was 1.3 incidents per 1,000 students,  according to the state tally released Wednesday,  compared with 4.5 at Alexander and 10.6 at North Meck.

In east Charlotte,  KIPP Charlotte charter school reported one assault on school staff and Sugar Creek Charter reported one sexual assault  (touching private parts against the person's will).  That put Sugar Creek,  which had 858 students in grades K-8,  at 1.2 acts per 1,000 students and the smaller KIPP,  which serves grades 5-8,  at 3 acts per 1,000.  Both charters serve mostly African American students from low-income families.

Sitting right between the two charters is CMS' Martin Luther King Middle School,  with similar demographics.  It reported 11 students caught with alcohol, five with weapons other than guns and four with drugs.  There were three assaults on personnel, two assaults with weapons and one sexual assault,  for a rate of 27.6 acts per 1,000 students.

That pattern plays out over and over when you look at the 2012-13 state crime and violence report.  I calculated an average for 16 charter schools in Mecklenburg or just across county lines.  Half of them  --  Carolina International School, The Community School,  Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy,  Queens Grant,  Crossroads High,  Community School of Davidson,  Socrates Academy and Corvian Community School  -- reported no crime or violence last year.  All totaled, the 16 schools served a total of 11,659 students last year and averaged 1.8 acts per 1,000.

That compares with an average of 9.9 in CMS  (which had 27 of 160 schools with no criminal/violent acts), 5.1 in Cabarrus, 3.5 in Gaston, 7.5 in Iredell-Statesville, 5.8 in Lincoln and 8.2 in Union County.

So what does that mean?  I didn't hear back after leaving messages at Lake Norman and Queens Grant.

The CMS response was skeptical.  "I certainly wouldn't say that charter schools are safer than CMS,"  said Chief Communications Officer Kathryn Block.  "We have to remember that this is self-reporting."  She noted that CMS takes the state mandate seriously,  though  "I can't speak for what other entities may or may not report."

It's possible that some schools underreport.  Several years ago CMS logged remarkably low numbers on this very report.  One of my colleagues delved into police reports and showed that those numbers were far below reality.  CMS acknowledged the flaws and started reporting much higher tallies.

And among supporters of traditional public schools,  there are always rumblings that charters force out troublemakers.  The suspension/expulsion section of the crime/violence report doesn't seem to support that  --  I counted 10 long-term suspensions and two expulsions from the Charlotte-area charters  --  but it's possible that some students are  "counseled out"  and return to district schools.

Still,  this seems to be one of the intriguing questions about what charter schools bring to the mix.  I've heard parents say they opt for charters because they consider them safer and more orderly.  These numbers seem to bolster their belief.


Wiley Coyote said...

The number to be looking at is how many of the major offenses that happened in charters resulted in the kids being kicked out versus CMS' refusal to do the same.

Reporting and consequences are two different things.

Again, kid suspended 13 times in one middle school.

How many kids in charters were suspended 13 times and allowed to stay in school?

Anonymous said...

Charters dont accept all types of students so of course they will be "safer" .

Anonymous said...

Charters are "safe" because they do not accept all types of students . Tell people the truth. We are pushing for dual systems.

Anonymous said...

Many charter schools have either official or unofficial penalties of being removed to the "home" school in cases of certain offenses or repeated offenses. All this has done is turn CMS schools into a dumping ground for the lowest performing, high needs, and behavioral problem students. This skimming needs to be addressed when reporting test scores and student growth. Apples to Oranges in every degree.

Anonymous said...

"Counseled out." What a nice term for students who are no longer welcomed at the charters and return to their home schools to create havoc and increase the number of violent acts and suspensions for that school. Maybe a great story would be how many withdrawals are seen during the school year from the charters in the North Tryon and Beatties Ford areas. Because they seem to be returning to my school in record numbers...

kas said...

I have often said that my IB classes had students that were relatively well behaved because they had at least one parent/guardian at home who cared enough to put their name on an application to get them in the lottery. I suppose the same goes for charter schools. I don't know if there is a real correlation. It is just my speculation.

Anonymous said...

I would certainly say the private/charter schools are a better environment socially, and probably safer for kids.

I am biting my tongue right now...AK was not even on the list? there is a lot of drug use/alcohol use going on at that school. My son is continually harassed because he doesn't drink, smoke pot or do cocaine.
Keep your kids away from cms high schools, and AK is considered a "good" one.

We are counting the days til he's outta there. I imagine the social pressure and games go on at the other highs schools too.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone honestly think that Metrolina Regional Scholars Academy would have the crime that East Meck. has? Please lets not spend money on why those statistics are so different. Of course charters have less crime, the kids that go to charters have caring, involved parents that have taken them out of the CMS system. Caring parents=less criminal children the majority of the time. Doesn't take a Metrolina Regional student's IQ to figure that out.

Anonymous said...

Anon 845, unless you plan on sending your kid to BYU he will see a lot of drug use in college. The key is how will he act when someone offers him. Seems to me he will be okay. Got to wonder about the kid who has been sheltered.....another thing that skews the statistics. Most charters do not accept kids after the first day. Often, when a kid gets in trouble, parents try to remedy it by switching schools. Since charters are not accepting, the nearest public school has to. Since charterhave to recruit to survive, I wonder how vigilant they are in reporting...?

Anonymous said...

Whatever CMS data says, you can probably double it. There are incidents going on at ALL of the schools that never get reported. if the parents only knew.....

Shamash said...

As with most "crime" statistics, (unless there is a body count), they probably underestimate to look good.

Especially on those vague, hard to prove incidents.

I don't know if Charters have less crime or just report less crime.

Such is the state of society today.

It seems "reasonable" to me that they would have less crime for all the reasons mentioned such as

Parents who care
Dumping miscreants on "home" schools.

All sound like good overall strategies to me, BTW.

CMS needs a few more "reform" schools to handle all the other budding criminal kids, too.

Why not give all CMS kids (and teachers and admins) who behave a shot at a safe learning environment?

J said...

Anon 6:25 and 6:27. With the exception of a few specialized schools (i.e. Metrolina Scholars), Charter Schools are required to accepted any NC resident regardless of income or ability. The key difference in charter schools is parents who care and are involved in their child's education. You have to take the time to fill out an application to apply to a charter. Applications are randomly selected by lottery. CMS magnets are the same process. It would be interesting to see full (not partial) CMS magnets compared against "home" schools. I bet you will find a similar result because parents care enough to fill out magnet application.

Anonymous said...

charters are a safer option in some situations, however, if traditional public schools were able to handle this in the same manner, they would be safer also. Charters have some significant advantages, most of which have been pointed out by other people in this forum. Basically speaking, Charters don't accept thugs and if they do, and they get into trouble, they are gone.

with regards to drugs, as parents, all we can do is raise our children the best we can, to instill character in them and hope they make sound decisions. I don't care where you send your kids to school, odds are, drugs are there too, even Christian schools.

Anonymous said...

4:47 the social pressure on kids today is crazy, especially what they do or don't do being broadcast within moments on Instagram, Facebook, etc...

Agree that kids need to be able to stand up for themselves in college and say No to temptations such as drugs but one is pretty much an outcast if they don't go along with social peer pressure in high school nowadays because EVERYBODY knows everybody else business. At college there is a bit more "space" and diversity in which to hide.

Anonymous said...

You can at least double the CMS numbers. Staff being assaulted are continually pressured by administration to not report these assaults.

CMS needs more alternative schools. The miscrits need to be removed from the general population. The family unit should be forced into Mental Health counseling and the student should be "remoted" into the learning environment. This is a good case for virtual school.

Learn to be "civil" and behave among others, then you can return to the physical location.

Anonymous said...

Charter schools under report just like any other school. Just ask any parent and compare to the "official" reports. They don't add up.

Shamash said...

One significant difference I can see between Charters and other public schools is that most Charters have more "skin" in the game if they fail.

As the S.C. Superintendent of Education Mick Zais wrote:

"Second, I wish to strengthen public charter schools by closing those that are failing. When traditional schools fail, they get more money. When public charter schools fail, we should close them."

Read more here:

As he said, throw more money at the regular failures, but close the charters.

Under those rules (not sure if NC is different) , I'd be dumping the budding criminals, too.

Anonymous said...

There is so much going on at the local high schools, even in the classrooms that the administration and teachers are not even aware of. Now the drug of choice with all the athletes at our suburban, south charlotte high school is tobacco chew. Why is this being allowed in the classroom and sport teams? Because the staff is "unaware" of the problem. What a joke

Shamus said...

Didn't you just write an article about how much technology is being stolen from CMS schools and students?

Doesn't sound like a safer environment to me.

Shamash said...

Anon 11:29am

"Why is this being allowed in the classroom and sport teams?"

Because the people who KNOW about this sort of thing just aren't blowing their whistles long and loud enough.

I guarantee you I'd do it if I knew of something going on at my kids school.

I would hope their teachers would too, but nowadays I kinda doubt they would.

Anonymous said...

Shamash, everyone's just trying to cover their own behinds....and I mean school administration, coaches and teachers.

Larry said...

I'm scared.

A good Charter School story appearing in the observer.

Something is up.

Anonymous said...

10:31, You mean a good charter school story appearing on

The observer is running a story to focus attention on a failed Charlotte charter school.

Anonymous said...

I am curious, does anyone else believe that parents should play a role in the development of their own chidlren. It s not up to the schools to ensure values in your chidlren, that's your job! It is not up to the schools to teach your children not to be violent or use drugs, that is up to you!

Charter schools typically don't take thugs to start with and if a kid does choose to get into trouble, you are gone.

Shamash said...


The main difference I see between a failed Charter school and a failed regular school is that they will actually CLOSE the failed Charter.

I think that's a good thing.

What better way to separate the wheat from the chaff?

Of course, those kids are just pawns in the game, and get shuffled off to other schools.

But it's not like we didn't have warning that this school was going down the tubes.

Charters definitely need more scrutiny in return for their "independence".

Because anytime you see an all-you-can-eat government trough, there will be plenty of hawgs lined up.

Anonymous said...

That is erroneous. All NC charters accept students through a blind lottery process. Charters have no control or judgment over who enters the lottery or who enrolls.

Anonymous said...

well one thing I can say is that the local charter and private schools probably don't have to deal with Instagram porn like our CMS schools do, the most recent occurrence at Audry kell high school. Haven't heard this in the news yet, wonder why?

Anonymous said...

Queens Grant Charter School has no real security guard or law enforcement on campus. The brother of Mint Hill's Mayor is the "supposed" one security guard on campus just collecting money until he can retire. Campus cameras do not work. Where are the tax dollars going?