If school violence is worth tracking, it's worth tracking properly.

That doesn't seem to be happening in New York, where schools are required to report data on violent and disruptive incidents each year, yet don't really have the training, knowledge or guidelines to do so precisely.

The point of the process is the creation of a database to tell parents and educators the level of student-on-student violence in different schools. This is important because federal law allows parents to transfer their kids out of any school classified as "persistently dangerous."

The data are also used to set school funding for programs on diversity, bullying and cyberbullying.

The problem is that data reported so far make little sense.

Four high schools in Nassau County, for instance, reported no incidents of bullying, harassment, menacing or intimidation in the 2010-11 school year. That would be wonderful if it were true, but it almost certainly isn't. At the same time, two Locust Valley elementary schools reported a total of 22 sexual offenses, which seems like a lot for kids that age and was more than all Nassau high schools combined.

The reporting standards for the schools, which can also be found on the state Education Department website, aren't clear enough, being too tied to legalese like "menacing" and "criminal mischief," and educators aren't trained or given clear guidelines to comply in a meaningful way. The terms need to be clearer, and the schools need to be taught exactly what the standards are. There needs to be oversight to assure the reporting standards are met.

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This is important information the state is trying to gather. It needs to commit to gathering it well.