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Unsafe School Choice Option (IX-E-2-9532)


The Unsafe School Choice Option requires each state that receives funds under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act as amended by the No Child Left Behind Act to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that students who attend a persistently dangerous school or become victims of violent crimes on the grounds of a school they attend be allowed to attend a safe school within the same district.

In 1999, students ages 12 through 18 were victims of 2.5 million crimes at school, including 186,000 serious violent crimes (that is, rape, sexual assault, robbery, and aggravated assault). Student safety is of concern outside of school premises as well: in 1999, students were more than twice as likely to be victims of serious violent crime away from school as at school.

The percentage of students being victimized at school has declined during the last few years. Between 1995 and 1999, the percentage of students who reported being victims of crime at school decreased from 10 percent to 8 percent. However, the prevalence rates of some types of crimes at school have not changed. For example, between 1993 and 1999, the percentage of students in grades 9 through 12 who were threatened or injured with a weapon on school property in the past 12 months remained constant, at about 7 to 8 percent.

The Unsafe School Choice Option provision will help parents, regardless of income, remove their children from a dangerous or distressing school setting. Reducing students' concerns for their safety will allow them to better concentrate on their studies and thus improve their academic achievement.

How It Works

Each state must establish, in consultation with a representative sample of school districts, a definition of what constitutes a "persistently dangerous" public elementary or secondary school. States must allow students who attend such schools, or who are the victims of a violent crime while on the grounds of the school they attend, to transfer to a safe public elementary or secondary school, including a public charter school, in the same district.

Key Activities For The State Education Agencies

State education agencies, or the state agency designated to handle Unsafe School Choice Option responsibilities, must:

  • Establish a state "Unsafe School Choice Option" policy.
  • Identify "persistently dangerous" schools.
  • Identify types of offenses that are considered to be violent criminal offenses.
  • Provide a safe public school choice option.
  • Include a certification of compliance in applications for ESEA funds.

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Last Modified: 09/14/2007