Violent incidents in Ohio schools are closely tracked. Since 2007, the law has required every school to list all incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying on the school website.
An NBC4 investigation at the start of the school year discovered that report had been ignored since 2010 by Columbus City Schools.
Columbus City Schools report 1,970 incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying over the last year in the 108 schools comprising the district.
The data is the first update since 2010, when Columbus City Schools reported just less than 1,868 bullying incidents.
The school-supplied data is much less precise than incident reports compiled by police departments who are called in response to incidents.
Since reporting on a shockingly violent classroom fight at Westerville South High School on the third day of classes this August, NBC4 has acquired hundreds of incident reports and combed through more than 1,000 pages from police, detailing events at 15 Central Ohio school districts.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 19, 2014, Central Ohio police and sheriff’s offices handled 741 calls at the responding school districts.
Westerville police had the most incident reports with 173. Grove City police responded to South-Western City Schools 101 times, and Whitehall City Schools required police 82 times over the reporting period. Big Walnut had 13 police reports, Buckeye Valley had eight, and Groveport had the least, with five incidents of the 15 school districts that were examined by NBC4 Investigates.
In the category of violent incidents, the picture changes.
Reynoldsburg is third with 15 violent incidents handled by police. Whitehall police had 19 school violence incidents and South-Western City Schools had the most violent incidents requiring police response, with 22. Westerville City Schoos did not make the top three in the violent incident category, requiring police response 11 times over nine and a half months.
Grove City Police Officer Kert Lanam has been the school resource officer at Central Crossing High School in the South-Western City School district since the building opened 13 years ago. Lanam said the incidents of violence have fallen steadily over the years.”There was a time we had four or five fights a week. But now we don’t have four or five fights a year,” Lanam said.
The presence of police in the schools is a calming effect on students, according to officer Lanam.
“They know a police officer is here, and they do know that if something happens there are going to be consequences with the law,” he said.
Lanam said there is a zero tolerance enforced on issues at school involving violence, drugs, alcohol, and sex.
Unruly behavior that could constitute disorderly conduct brings a case by case response depending on the advice of school administrators who consider a variety of factors beyond the incident in determining the proposed response. Lanam said his day-to-day interactions with students at Central Crossing High School makes him highly confident that the community and the nation are in good hands when present students enter the workforce and take over leadership.