ORLANDO, Fla. - It’s been almost one year since then 17-year old Russell Teague was arrested on charges of bringing a loaded gun to Orange County’s Colonial High School.
The gun, a .33-caliber pistol, was removed from the school and so was the student. Minutes later, the school issued an alert to parents that read, "One student made a poor decision of bringing a loaded handgun in his backpack to school today. The student was taken into custody and removed from campus. Law enforcement advised us that the campus is safe."
The incident at Colonial High School is part of the data used by the Department of Education and the school district to examine trends and determine where potential problems exist.
“Trends, we look at trends from one year to the next,” said Earl Green of Orange County Public Schools. “That’s what we’re doing right now, looking at offenses.”
According to information from 2012-2013 obtained by Eyewitness News from the Department of Education, Orange County is home to 11 of the 25 most dangerous schools, although school leaders said they have seen a decline in violence over the last decade.
The numbers from the DOE include reported incidents, reports to police, drugs, firearms, bullying, alcohol and incidents resulting in an injury. By looking at reported incidents weighted against student population, the list of the Top 25 most dangerous schools includes nine schools in Volusia County, four in Seminole and one, Leesburg High School, in Lake County.
“What you see is probably a reflection of the community in which your school is,” said University of Central Florida Criminal Justice Professor Dr. RH Potter. “If you’re in a higher crime community, one with more gangs, you would expect to see higher numbers.”
Potter notes that while the numbers may provide a guide the data-set is far from a perfect guide.
“The distinction between what’s known and what’s actually reported is always there,” said Potter.
“We follow those numbers very closely,” said Seminole County Public Schools Executive Director of Secondary Education Michael Blasewitz. “Last year’s numbers actually led us to take action this year.”
Seminole Public Schools said since the data was released it has seen a 25 percent decrease district wide in suspensions and 50 percent decrease at Seminole High School.
“We also look at where those offenses occurred on campus,” said Blasewitz.
Seminole said part of its approach isn’t just in addressing the incidents but also in making sure incidents are reported correctly.
The school said it is examining what gets entered into the data. If something is listed as a “fight,” does that mean two students were physically fighting or was it a verbal argument that required staff intervention?
The school said by reporting exactly what each incident is, the district is better able to address issues and identify patterns.