Report: Violations spike in Duval County schools

Superintendent Vitti says data reflects crackdown on discipline problems

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Fights, assaults on teachers, robberies, vandalism and other illegal activities at Duval County's public schools are increasing. In some cases, some of these incidents have doubled over the past year.

News4Jax investigators obtained a list of Level 3 and 4 infractions of the Code of Conduct in the school district over the past two years. These result in transfer to alternative schools, expulsion and, sometimes, criminal charges. 

For example, battery on employees by students increased from 59 in the 2013-2014 school year to 90 in the past school year.

In what the Code of Conduct calls a major disorder -- a large fight -- there were 130 more last school year than the year before.

Physical sexual harassment incidents increased to 57 cases last year from 14 the year before.

There was also big increase in lewd and offensive incidents involving students on students -- 342 last year compared to 148 the year before.

DOCUMENT: Level 3, 4 violations in Duval County schools over past 2 years
UNCUT: Superintendent Vitti talks about discipline in schools

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti was quick to point out that many of these incidents are not crimes, just violations of discipline. He also said the numbers were higher because the school district is cracking down and requiring the schools to report these incidents.

"So our data, it does not always reflect of what was or wasn't happening in our schools," Vitti said. "I think over the last two years, we really pushed that. Every referral not only needs to be documented, but put into the database system so we have good data to know where things are improving and where they are not and where do we put our additional resources."

One area that is concern to many parents is guns and other weapons in schools. News4Jax found seven documented cases of the use of guns in school last year compared to three before. There were 11 cases of kids just having guns in 2014-2015 compared to nine the school year before

Most students found with weapons were either expelled or sent to an alternative school. In these cases, they are also arrested.

Vitti said he is making some big changes and referring more troublemakers to those schools, and that is the purpose of the discipline report: to see where the problems are and if they are getting better.

"Unfortunately we do have a small percentage of children that do disrupt the learning environment. And I think we are very clearly moving into the school year that there's a higher level of consequences. Firmer consequences to move students (not only) out of the classroom, but out of schools when they are disruptive and violent," Vitti said.

The two-year discipline comparison did show some areas of improvement. Incidents of drug dealing was down -- 33 cases compared to 44 the year before. In 2013-14, there were two rape investigations. Last year, there were none.

Vitti wanted to assure parents that their children were safe at school.

"All four of my children are in traditional public schools," Vitti said. "I would not send my children into our schools if they weren't safe. I would walk into any of our schools on any random day and I think you'll find kids learning and engaged."

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.