FR Doc 03-15156
[Federal Register: June 16, 2003 (Volume 68, Number 115)]
[Notices]               
[Page 35671-35672]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr16jn03-57]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

 
Elementary and Secondary Education Act; Unsafe School Choice 
Option; Final Deadlines for Implementation

AGENCY: Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools, Department of Education.

ACTION: Notice of final deadlines for implementation.

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SUMMARY: The Deputy Under Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools 
establishes deadline dates for implementation of the Unsafe School 
Choice Option (USCO) requirements, under section 9532 of the Elementary 
and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, as amended by the No Child 
Left Behind Act of 2001. This notice establishes deadlines by which 
each State must identify persistently dangerous schools, as well as 
offer students attending a persistently dangerous school and students 
who are victims of a violent criminal offense while on school property 
the opportunity to transfer to a safe school.
    The notice of final deadlines for implementation is effective June 
16, 2003.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Kristen Hayes, U.S. Department of 
Education, 400 Maryland Ave., SW., Room 3E340, Washington, DC 20202-
6123. Telephone: (202) 708-9431. Or via Internet: Kristen.Hayes@ed.gov.    
If you use a telecommunications device for the deaf (TDD), you may 
call the Federal Information Relay Service (FIRS) at 1-800-877-8339.
    Individuals with disabilities may obtain this document in an 
alternative format (e.g., Braille, large print, audiotape, or computer 
diskette) on request to the contact person under FOR FURTHER 
INFORMATION CONTACT.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: These final deadlines implement the Unsafe 
School Choice Option (USCO), section 9532 of the Elementary and 
Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act of 
2001 (Pub. L. 107-110), enacted January 8, 2002.
    On April 7, 2003, the Deputy Under Secretary published a notice of 
proposed deadlines for final implementation (notice of proposed 
deadlines) for this provision in the Federal Register (68 FR 16789).
    In the notice of proposed deadlines, the Deputy Under Secretary 
proposed two deadlines for timely implementation of the USCO provision. 
The notice of proposed deadlines proposed (1) requiring each State to 
identify those schools that meet its definition of a persistently 
dangerous school by July 1, 2003, and each July 1st thereafter; and (2) 
requiring each State to allow students attending a persistently 
dangerous public elementary or secondary school and students who are 
victims of a violent criminal offense the opportunity to transfer to a 
safe school by the start of the 2003-2004 school year and each start of 
the school year thereafter.
    This notice of final deadlines for implementation contains 
significant changes that are fully explained in the Analysis of 
Comments and Changes elsewhere in this notice.

Analysis of Comments and Changes

    In response to the Deputy Under Secretary's invitation to comment 
in the notice of proposed deadlines, 13 parties submitted comments. Six 
of the commenters addressed the issue of the deadlines proposed in the 
notice of proposed deadlines. Following is an analysis of the comments 
and changes the Department has made in the deadlines since publication 
of the notice of proposed deadlines.
    We group major issues according to subject. Generally, we do not 
address technical and other minor changes. We also do not address 
suggested changes that the law does not authorize the Secretary to 
make.

Deadline for Identifying Persistently Dangerous Schools

    Comments: Six commenters requested the July 1, 2003 and each July 
1st thereafter deadline for labeling schools persistently dangerous be 
reconsidered. Four commenters proposed deadlines between July 15 and 
August 15; one commenter proposed a flexible timeframe of July 1-
September 30, and the other commenter felt that the July 1 deadline was 
too soon, but did not propose a specific date.
    Some of these commenters objected to the July 1st deadline because 
they believed it would not provide States with a sufficient amount of 
time to collect and analyze the most recent school year's data by July 
1st. Others contended that the deadline might force a State to omit its 
most recent school year's data in identifying persistently dangerous 
schools, and therefore not recognize improvements in the school's 
environment that were made in the most recent school year.
    Discussion: We agree that the July 1 implementation date could have 
had a negative impact on the States' ability to utilize the most recent 
school year's data in identifying persistently dangerous schools. It 
could also have been difficult for some States to complete analysis of 
the data by July 1.
    Changes: In response to these comments, the Deputy Under Secretary 
establishes a final deadline requiring each State to identify schools 
that meet its definition of a persistently dangerous school in 
sufficient time to permit local educational agencies (LEAs) to offer 
students in schools identified as persistently dangerous the option to 
transfer to a safe school at least 14 calendar days before the start of 
the 2003-2004 school year, and each school year thereafter.

Deadline for Offering Students Opportunity To Transfer

    Comments: We received three comments pertaining to the proposed 
start of school year deadline for transferring students who attend a 
persistently dangerous school or students who are victims of a violent 
criminal offense to transfer to a safe school. Two commenters stated 
that this deadline was feasible. One commenter proposed the effective 
date of student transfers be changed to October 1st of each year, at 
the earliest, to allow

[[Page 35672]]

schools and parents sufficient time to prepare and respond to the 
requirements of the USCO provision.
    Discussion: We believe a deadline for offering the transfer option 
to students attending a persistently dangerous school must 
appropriately balance the concerns of the States and local educational 
agencies with the needs of the individual students attending a 
persistently dangerous school or who are the victims of a violent 
criminal offense at school. Notification of the option to transfer to a 
safe school at the start of the school year would result in students 
not being able to transfer to a safe school until after the school year 
has begun. We believe that the benefits of having students transfer in 
advance of the school year include greater continuity and an easier 
transition for the students.
    Changes: The Deputy Under Secretary establishes a deadline 
requiring each LEA to offer students who attend persistently dangerous 
schools the opportunity to transfer to a safe school at least 14 
calendar days before the start of the 2003-2004 school year. This 
deadline will also apply in each school year thereafter. The Deputy 
Under Secretary also establishes a deadline requiring each local 
educational agency to offer students who are victims of violent 
criminal offenses while at school or on school grounds the opportunity 
to transfer to a safe school beginning at the start of the 2003-2004 
school year. This deadline will also apply in each school year 
thereafter.

Final Deadlines

    The Deputy Under Secretary establishes a final deadline requiring 
each State to identify schools that meet its definition of a 
persistently dangerous school in sufficient time to permit LEAs to 
offer students in schools identified as persistently dangerous the 
option to transfer to a safe school at least 14 calendar days before 
the start of the 2003-2004 school year. This deadline will also apply 
in each school year thereafter.
    The Deputy Under Secretary establishes a final deadline requiring 
each LEA to offer students who attend persistently dangerous schools 
the opportunity to transfer to a safe school at least 14 calendar days 
before the start of the 2003-2004 school year. This deadline will also 
apply in each school year thereafter. The Deputy Under Secretary also 
establishes a deadline requiring each LEA to offer students who are 
victims of violent criminal offenses while at school or on school 
grounds the opportunity to transfer to a safe school beginning at the 
start of the 2003-2004 school year. This deadline will also apply in 
each school year thereafter.
    We recognize that the start of the school year will vary from LEA 
to LEA. The opportunity to transfer provided by USCO must be offered to 
affected students at least 14 calendar days before the start of the 
school year in their LEA. Changes to this policy, consistent with 
statutory requirements and these deadlines, may be made as needed by 
the State.

Waiver of Delayed Effective Date

    Under the Administrative Procedures Act (5 U.S.C. 553), the 
Secretary generally establishes an effective date for regulations 30 
days after the final notice appears in the Federal Register. Due to the 
changes postponing the implementation dates in this notice of final 
implementation, and the seriousness of attending a persistently 
dangerous school or being a victim of a violent criminal offense, the 
Secretary waives the delayed effective date for good cause under 5 
U.S.C. 533(d)(3).

Electronic Access to This Document

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Education documents published in the Federal Register, in text or Adobe 
Portable Document Format (PDF) on the Internet at the following site: 
http://www.ed.gov/legislation/FedRegister/.
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    Note: The official version of this document is the document 
published in the Federal Register. Free Internet access to the 
official edition of the Federal Register and the Code of Federal 
Regulations is available on GPO Access at: http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/index.html.

(Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance Number does not apply.)

    Program Authority: 20 U.S.C. 7912.

    Dated: June 11, 2003.
Eric Andell,
Deputy Under Secretary for Safe and Drug-Free Schools.
[FR Doc. 03-15156 Filed 6-13-03; 8:45 am]

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