We all remember when a push and shove in school resulted in a trip to the principal’s office. Such scuffles, at times, are part of childhood and should result in appropriate discipline, a call home, and a report in school records as a minor incident. That is what is required by state guidelines and what happens in Miami-Dade Schools.
Major fights, however, where someone needs first aid or an adult must get physically involved to break it up, are reported to the Florida Department of Education in the School Environmental Safety Incident Reporting (SESIR).
In 2014-2015, M-DCPS realized the number of major fights reported to the state appeared exaggerated. Some schools would have had to have three major fights every day for SESIR numbers to be accurate. We knew that wasn’t the case. We discovered every incident was being reported, regardless how minor, and in many cases, participants were reported individually, therefore creating duplicate counts of single incidents. To correct this, we sought guidance from the state to align our reporting procedures and Code of Student Conduct with their requirements, provided additional training to school-site administrators, and enhanced our local reporting systems.
Today, we attempt to capture a more accurate reflection of what happens in our schools. During 2014-2015, 5,332 incidents were reported to SESIR as major fights, creating a state record for each student involved. In 2015-2016, as required, we reported 311 major fights via SESIR; however, locally we recorded 5,719 minor incidents, with students receiving the trip to the principal’s office, the call home, or other age and incident appropriate disciplinary action. These corrected reporting procedures help ensure children are not unnecessarily burdened with criminal records when detention or positive redirection may be more effective.
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Valtena G. Brown, deputy superintendent, Miami-Dade County Public Schools