KOLD Investigates: More district data lends credence to rising reports of school infractions

KOLD News 10-10:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 10:51 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - There’s been a reported rise in misbehavior on campuses nationwide.

Education leaders say many students are having to relearn how to be in school after being away for so long.

And some kids are still stressed as the pandemic wears on.

Education leaders say the pandemic is likely the culprit as students adjust to being on campus again.

Several more districts have turned over data to KOLD News 13, including the largest in the region.

The major districts now providing discipline data: Tucson Unified and Amphi.

Vail is the only one left that hasn’t responded to public records requests.

Here’s a look at what the data reveals for these two districts.

A fight, captured on on camera a few months ago on one of Tucson Unified’s high school campuses, is one of 24 reported by staff at that school between the start of the school year and Nov. 11.

A highly credible source says teachers report breaking up more fights at Tucson High.

Data shows it’s double the count from the 2019 school year. And assaults increased from 2 to 6.

Here’s the overall data count throughout TUSD: Only Minor Aggressive Acts increased 50% while aggravated assaults and assaults dropped by 13% district wide.

Let’s take a look at the higher count schools with the largest swings in “aggression”. Data shows 9 schools have more, and 11 schools have less.

Some Southern Arizona districts reported more students are more aggressive, but it hasn’t risen to more law enforcement involvement at schools.

Gonzales: I did expect a little bit of that to happen with the children that have like social anxiety.>

Chris Gonzales, who supervises 13 student resource officers from the Pima County Sheriff’s Department, said he expected aggression to rise a little bit.

“So most of our calls or involvement at the schools for the sheriff’s department has been pretty much on par,” he said.

Schools handle the fights on their own, he said.

The source also says teachers report breaking up more fights at Rincon, reflected in the data, from 3 to 11 incidents.

At Pueblo, the source says “teachers are being told that minor incidents are not going to be addressed until teachers call all parents, which increases the workload for teachers.”

It raised the question of whether the uptick in those minor incidents can elevate to more severe ones, but the district narrowed the scope of our public records request.

The data the district did send indicated that smaller percentages of minor incidents were recorded in nearly all schools.

In fact, the district told says 11 schools are “without incident reports,” five schools during the previous academic year and six schools this year.

“Some administrators don’t list all violations in an incident, just the most serious as that is the level that dictates the disposition(s),” said a source with the district. “For example, if a student is caught smoking marijuana, a level four offense, while ditching class, a level one offense, the marijuana violation will entered, but the unexcused absence may not be.”

The source said those lower level violations are typically seen as “teachable moments.”

“We treat those restoratively, so they don’t become an ‘incident’ unless the behavior is repeated,” the source said.

That begs the question: How does the district know incidents are repeated if they’re not all listed?

KOLD News 13 has requested any system or database of staff reporting minor incidents.

Moving over to the Amphi District, officials say they’ve also noticed an increase in student aggression.

The data reveals a substantial rise in fighting this school year: 58 to 86, or a 48% jump.

Matt Munger, the Associate Superintendent for Secondary Education, explains that students in certain grades struggled with returning to campus after a year and a half of remote learning.

Ninth graders who didn’t have their opportunities to be eighth graders and same thing with sixth graders who really the last time they were on campus was 4th grade before they promoted to middle school,” Munger said. “The upside, though, is having turned the corner from first quarter into the second, we’ve seen a significant improvement.

Munger says the district has been using federal COVID relief dollars, known as ESSER funds, to tackle social emotional distress.

Catalina Foothills has also submitted its discipline data, but it’s taking more time to compile because it’s in a different format than the rest.

Counts will be posted on KOLD’s website when the analysis of the data is complete.

Click here to see KOLD’s first investigative report on the rise in bad behavior.

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