Creating Safe and Drug-Free Schools: An Action Guide - September 1996

A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Effective Data Collection for Safe Public Schools Exemplary Practices

Schools and school districts around the Nation vary widely in whether and how they collect and track data on incidents of student violence and discipline. However, without accurate and consistent data to analyze, it is difficult for educators, parents, and communities to draw conclusions on the impact of any policy relating to safer public schools, much less to determine which schools are doing a good job and where resources should be concentrated. To help communities address this vital need, the following examples of exemplary data collection strategies being used by certain school districts in the country have been compiled. These examples may assist local education agencies looking for better methods of information gathering to develop a system that best suits their needs.

Elements of a Good Data Collection Strategy

As more and more school districts recognize the benefits of accurate data, they will want to share "best practices." One of the best suggestions for school districts to begin a data collection process is to talk with other school districts with similar information needs. The school districts should also:

Norfolk Public School District
Norfolk, Virginia
SMART Program

The Norfolk Public School District's School Management and Resource Teams (SMART) program was funded by a joint grant from the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice. The Norfolk effort establishes a team for each school and decentralizes responsibility for discipline to those teams. Part of the SMART program includes an Incident Profiling System (IPS) that is a simple-to-use, computerized tracking system available in each of Norfolk's schools. Data are collected on the nature of the violation, location of the incident, and the disciplinary action taken. Student names are not included. Using this data, school teams identify three primary patterns of disruption within their school, report to the district level, and work together to recommend solutions for improvement.

Benefits. This school district believes that the SMART process has contributed to a steady decline in the number of incidents as well as in the seriousness of the incidents. The data collected in IPS allow month-by-month tracking and year-over-year comparison to be done quickly. The data also become the basis for interacting with other agencies like the juvenile courts and have resulted in targeted police monitoring of truancy. During parent conferences, teachers can access a student's record in the IPS (which also includes class schedules, test scores, and grade point average), allowing for a holistic approach to student progress.

More Information: Bill Delk
Director of Pupil Personnel

Dade County Public Schools
Miami, Florida
SPAR System

Dade County Public Schools use a computer system called School Police Automated Reporting (SPAR) to record incidents of violence involving students. Once an incident occurs on a school campus, on school-sponsored transportation, or even off-campus, the school notifies the Dade County Public Schools (DCPS) Police Department. The DCPS Police enters the incident information into the SPAR system, and a unique SPAR number is assigned. By assigning a SPAR number to each incident of violence, the system links the district's data base for student discipline with that of the local schools' computers. Each school has access to the SPAR number as well as to the information entered, and makes disciplinary decisions. The schools are responsible for updating the system with any relevant information on the incident.

The SPAR system enables teachers and authorized persons to obtain "batch" or profile reports that can identify student demographics and incident details such as number of students involved, type of violation, location of incident, and type of disciplinary action taken. A summary report is submitted annually to the Florida Department of Education.

Benefits. SPAR's ability to produce so many different types of reports aids security personnel and administrators in developing individual school security plans.

More Information: E.O. "Red" McAllister
Chief of Police

Anaheim Union High School District
Anaheim, California

The Anaheim Union High School District is the designated West Coast Resource Site for school districts interested in implementing the SMART (School Management and Resource Team) program. As part of this program, the Incident Profiling System (IPS), which operates on the school district's computers, is used by each school to record all disciplinary infractions and criminal acts, including law violations and education code violations. The IPS generates reports describing patterns of disruptions and crimes. Data are reviewed by teams at all school sites each month and are used to problem-solve as well as to set goals and determine solutions for the sites. The district's SMART committee reviews the data based on a districtwide concern for monitoring activity and developing prevention strategies. Data are used on a regular basis by site administrators to monitor student behavior and to develop intervention, support, or disciplinary plans.

Benefits. IPS helps the school district to:

More Information: Bob Montenegro
Safe Schools Administrator

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Nashville, Tennessee
AIMS System

Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools use the Automated Information Management System (AIMS) to record data and create reports on student violations. When an incident of violence occurs in this system, the principal makes a verbal report by telephone to the school's director of administrative services. From the director's office a typewritten account of the incident, called an Infogram, is created to alert the Board of Education about the matter. Eventually, the principal completes a Student Incident Report, which compiles the details and the outcome of the violation. Once the disciplinary action to be taken is determined, secretaries at each school enter actions taken with reason codes into AIMS. School personnel download the information each attendance period into the mainframe, from which printouts of suspension data may be obtained. Based on the information entered into AIMS, various types of reports can be generated. For example, suspension data can be retrieved from AIMS according to school, grade, gender, race, or any other variable already in the system.

More Information: Joseph Anderson
Director of Safety and Security

Detroit Public Schools
Detroit, Michigan

The Detroit Public Schools use the Automated Information Management System (AIMS) for processing code of conduct violations that warrant suspension, transfer, or expulsion. Once a student's guilt is established, AIMS assigns a unique identification code to the incident and codes the incident type, location, disciplinary action taken, and any other pertinent information. In addition to reporting all incidents of violence to the Student Code of Conduct Office, serious incidents, which include assaults that require medical attention and those that result in arrest, are also reported to the Public Safety Office. Detroit's system allows school personnel to generate year-to-year comparisons and reports by month, semester, or school year. Reports may also be categorized by district, area, gender, grade level, and school.

Benefits. By keeping a record of students who are in the suspension track, AIMS ensures due process of rights for students and parents. This is important because no student may be transferred out of her or his school without justification and proof from AIMS that all other options and interventions have been exhausted.


For those school districts interested in comparing their statistical information to national data, the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) at the Department of Justice attached a School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) in 1988. Based on students ages 12-19 enrolled in a school program leading to a high school diploma, the information includes student demographic characteristics, violent and property victimization data, fear of crime measures, drug and alcohol availability, weapons use, and school security measures. The BJS report based on this study, School Crime, is available from the BJS Clearinghouse (800-732-3277) or may be downloaded from the BJS World Wide Web site ( data file used to produce the report may be obtained on diskette from the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data by calling 800-999-0960, or from their World Wide Web site (

A replication of this study, funded by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) was attached to the NCVS in 1995 and is currently being processed and analyzed. Measures are similar to those included in the 1988 study but provide expanded information on weapons prevalence and use, measures of gang presence and activity, and school characteristics derived from NCES files. The reports should be available in early 1997.

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