As students in Warren County returned to school after the holidays, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office reported there had been 11 reported assaults on school grounds, including buses and bus stops, during the first half of the 2018-2019 school year.
Lt. Jennifer Kirkland, of the Sheriff’s Office, said that the number of cases seems to be around average compared to the past couple of years.
“I wouldn’t say it’s lower based on the amount of school days so far,” Kirkland said. “This year seems pretty typical of the past years.”
If the current pace continues in the second half of the school year, the number of reported assaults for this school year could exceed the 17 that were reported during the 2017-2018 school year. However, it could be below the 28 reported assaults during the 2016-2017 school year.
The total number of reported assaults on Warren County school property since the beginning of the 2016 school year is 56. Kirkland said that only 30 of those cases have resulted in charges.
“Of those cases that involve charges, there may be one or more offenders charged per case,” she said.
Kirkland said that the Sheriff’s Office was notified of the assaults by school administration personnel, transportation personnel, or in some non-mandated cases, by victims. She said there have been some instances where an act of assault and battery was committed in a deputy’s presence.
“Our system doesn’t categorize by whether a report is a school-mandated report or other,” she said. “Those reports aren’t handled any differently than a report from any other source.”
Schools Superintendent Greg Drescher said 39 of the assaults that were reported involved student against student; another 17 of those reported assaults were against a staff member. None of the assaults involved weapons.
“While each incident is unique, there are some similarities,” Drescher said. “Often, when the assault occurs with students, it is a physical fight. Students argue, resulting in one or both of them hitting. More often than not, this is occurring at our middle and high schools. Often, when the assault occurs with staff, it is when staff are attempting to control a physical situation and are hit by a student. More often than not, this is occurring at our elementary schools.”
Drescher said that the district is trying to find ways to help curb the number of cases involving physical violence.
“We take all incidents involving physical aggression seriously,” he said. “Everyone, students and staff, deserves to be at a school that is safe. For some students, we need to make sure they are appropriately placed. We have young people coming to us that have experienced some very upsetting things in their young lives and learning how to interact with peers and adults takes some time.”
One of the ways the division has combated assaults on school property is a program involving restorative justice, which teaches students who are angry how to interact more positively with other students and adults instead of resorting to physical violence.
“Our main goal is to always do what will help the student, not repeat the behavior,” Drescher said. “Sometimes that is a suspension, other times it is counseling, sometimes it is a safety plan with the school and other students.”
There are 5,175 students enrolled in Warren County schools this year.