NYC's Department of Education -- and Mayor Bill de Blasio -- have stridently argued over the last few weeks that concerns over potential increases in school violence are unfounded. And yet, it seems, they're not willing to prove it.
When the city came under fire for supposedly under-reporting incidents of school violence last month, it became clear that fueling that was a discrepancy in how school incident data are reported and categorized. The city maintains a data set, and then reports it to the state, which puts it all online, by school. But the state's system categorizes incidents differently from the city, and the city's data set is not online.
Families for Excellent Schools, an organization critical of the mayor, says the state data show increases in school violence. City officials respond that FES' claims were misleading and incorrect. A DOE spokeswoman noted that state data categorized incidents involving a pencil the same way as incidents involving a knife -- as "assault with a weapon." City data, she argued, break down incidents more specifically.
But when we asked the DOE for its data set, so that we could compare it with state data, we were met with a curt response. "Unfortunately, we're not going to be able to provide any of the OORS data that you asked about," a DOE spokeswoman replied via email. (OORS is the city's Online Occurrence Reporting System.) A follow-up explanation pointed to "a lot of private information about students" contained in the data that, she said, can't be released.
That argument doesn't make sense. It's easy to redact names or to publish the data by school rather than by student names. So, we've filed a freedom of information request for the data.
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