JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School Board met Thursday morning to discuss the findings of a bombshell grand jury report that found the school’s police force underreported crimes to the state.
The district said Thursday many of the issues addressed in the report have already been addressed and will continue to be scrutinized.
The report that was unsealed last week found that between 2016 and 2020 more than 500 alleged crimes were not reported correctly.
Investigators had combed through more than 2,600 “incident” reports. The jury said more than 520 of them should have been labeled “offense” reports and filed with state law enforcement. They included 150 instances of battery on a school employee, 94 instances of child abuse,157 lewd acts and many others.
The school district police chief at the center of the accusations resigned last year and the district said the procedures in question have been changed. Still, the school board acknowledged that more needs to be done.
School board member Lori Hershey acknowledged the “sins of the past” when discussing the report, but felt reassured that “action was taken.”
The grand jury report found District Police Chief Micheal Edwards told officers not to file certain reports on crimes. The grand jury called Edwards’ actions “overt fraud.”
The school board was given a summary of the report and some of the changes that have happened within the district since the preliminary report came out in 2020.
The district said the grand jury found that criminal incidents were written up as information reports, not offense reports, which means the information was not submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which tracks crime in schools.
That practice has now been changed, DCPS said, and police notification is now required.
“I think parents may believe that we’re not trying to keep our kids safe. We’re trying to sort of hide things under the rug. But if you really look at what happened we were always reporting the incidents that were happening. So regardless of if they weren’t reported as criminal offenses or whatnot on that level, they were still facing Code of Conduct within our school. So you weren’t seeing students just go back into the classroom. You’re seeing them face code of conduct and consequences from us. So really, it’s about it’s about that so we want to let parents know right now we are doing everything we can to keep your kids safe and keep our staff safe as well,” school board chairman Darryl Willie said.
Board member Willie defended Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene, saying she took action immediately after issues were brought to her attention.
“Dr. Greene has taken this very seriously. Right when she found out even before she found out and got reported she made sure let me take action. And you saw some leadership changes happen. And you saw her being proactive and reaching out to the state and law enforcement to make sure that we were doing it the right way,” Willie said.
Here are some of the other changes that DCPS says it has made:
- District reformatted Student Code of Conduct to more clearly identify offenses requiring police notification
- Battery on a school employee incidents now investigated and written as offense reports
- Florida Department of Education trained principals and conducted an audit on reporting procedures
The school board said it plans to wait for the findings of the audit conducted earlier this year before it takes any more actions.
Board member Charlotte Joyce said she thinks the board needs to review its student code of conduct and see where there are potential weaknesses.
DCPS said it also plans to meet with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and FDLE to talk about monitoring how the district reports student conduct issues.