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Safety in Numbers: Collecting and Using Crime, Violence, and Discipline Incident Data to Make a Difference in Schools
Home/Introduction
Chapter 1
  Using Data to Make a Difference
Chapter 2
    Meeting the Challenges of Data Collection
Chapter 3
    Reporting Incident Data
Chapter 4
    Collecting Data
Conclusions
Endnotes
References
Appendices
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Chapter 4: Collecting Data


4.1  Incident Data and Codes 4.2  Perpetrator Information
  Incident Identifier   Perpetrator
  School Number   Perpetrator ID
  Incident Date   Perpetrator Injury
  Time 4.3 Victim Information
  Location (Where)   Victim
  Facilities Code   Victim ID
  Cost   Victim Injury
  Reporter 4.4 Discipline Information
  Reporter ID   Disciplinary Action
  Weapon Type   Start Date of Disciplinary Action
  Injury   End Date of Disciplinary Action
  Reported to Law Enforcement   Duration of Disciplinary Action
  Related Elements   Related to Special Education Manifestation Hearing
      Alcohol-Related   Related to Zero Tolerance Policy
      Drug-Related   Full Year Expulsion
      Gang-Related   Shortened Expulsion
      Hate-Related    
      Weapon-Related    
  Incident Codes    

This chapter outlines elements important for inclusion in an incident database. Users may choose to collect some or all variables as best suits their needs. There may also be codes within a variable that are not useful for individual schools, districts, or states. This model was developed to be as inclusive as possible. The items included below are those that could be used to make a difference in the climate of a school, school district, or state.

The elements discussed in this chapter are broken into four categories, as illustrated in Figure 4-1:

  • Information about the incident itself-for example, when it occurred;
  • Perpetrator data;
  • Victim data; and
  • Information about the disciplinary action taken.

Incidents often involve more than one perpetrator, victim, and/or disciplinary action. Relational databases allow users to record any number of components (e.g., multiple perpetrators, victims, disciplinary actions) without requiring that the number of components be predetermined by the application developer and therefore limited. For example, perhaps a fight occurs involving 10 perpetrators. If the incident database comprises a single data table which contains three perpetrator fields, it will not permit the school to record all the perpetrators' information in the same entry. However, if the database has a separate perpetrator table, users may simply record an entry for each perpetrator, linking the offenders to the incident with the incident identifier field. Similarly, it is likely that there will be incidents that involve multiple victims or that result in multiple disciplinary actions. Allowing for links from the victim and perpetrator modules to the student and staff databases will simplify data entry. Allowing all disciplinary actions for an incident to be recorded will permit complete review of the frequency with which particular penalties are applied and their relationship to future outcomes.

It is useful to collect victim data. Some people would argue that this is unnecessary as the victim did nothing wrong. However, if collected, this information can be useful in identifying patterns of victimization. In addition to their responsibility to take appropriate action against those who cause victimization, schools and districts have a responsibility to support the victims themselves. This includes prevention programs and other actions to prevent discrimination, harassment, and other problem behaviors. Victim data will facilitate this.

Figure 4-1. Elements of an Incident Database
Figure 4-1. Elements of an Incident Database

In many schools, staff complete one "incident referral" form for each participant in an incident. In such a school for the situation previously described involving 10 perpetrators, 10 referral forms would be generated. As noted above, a relational database will allow the information from all 10 forms to be linked by the same incident identifier.

The discussion in the remainder of this chapter presumes that a relational database linking victim and perpetrator elements to student and staff databases will be used.5 It is critical to treat data on incidents, victims, perpetrators, and disciplinary actions as separate categories of information and create separate "modules" or data tables for each category.6

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4.1 Incident Data and Codes

The variables described in this section capture information specific to the incident itself. That is, these variables are used to record what occurred and when. The codes for many variables allow either general or specific information to be collected. The codes are structured so that specific codes can be subsumed under more general codes. This will permit comparability between locales collecting specific information and locales collecting only general information.

Incident Identifier. This is a locally assigned unique identifier (within the school or school district) to identify each specific incident or occurrence. The same identifier should be used to document the entire incident even if it included multiple offenses and multiple offenders. This is one of the key fields that link incident records to perpetrator, victim, and disciplinary action data. In addition to comprising a unique incident code, this variable could include the following elements:7

  • School year,
  • School identifier,
  • School district identifier, and
  • State identifier.
Including the school year is useful when records are maintained for more than one year. By including "location" elements (school, school district, and state), users can distinguish between incidents reported by multiple jurisdictions. The school identifier needs to be included when incident data are reported from the school to the school district. This variable could be a local school district code, the code assigned by the state, or the code assigned by some Federal surveys. The school and school district identifier needs to be included when incident data are reported from school districts to their state offices of education. The district identifier could be the state's code for the district or the code assigned by some Federal surveys such as the Common Core of Data (CCD). A state identifier would need to be included only if incident data are reported to the Federal Government. The level of detail included in this variable will be determined by individual needs.

School Number. This number is assigned by the school district or state for the school where the incident occurred. If the incident occurs during an activity or on transportation that is sponsored by the school, district, or state and not attached to a particular school, use a code that is not already assigned to a reporting unit. For example, 9s can be used to capture these "other" situations. Thus, if the state-assigned school code is a four-digit variable, use the code "9999." If a school identifier is included in the incident identifier, as discussed above, it need not be included separately.8

Incident Date. Use this variable to identify the date when the incident occurred. Allow two digits to capture the day, two digits to capture the month and four digits to capture the year: MM-DD-YYYY. (Consideration of computer operating systems will dictate the format in which the data are stored.)

Time. This variable identifies when the incident occurred and whether or not it occurred during school hours. It is important to record specific information about when an incident occurred. For example, instead of simply recording that an incident occurred during school hours, noting that an incident took place while students were in transit between regular classes or during lunch would make the information more useful. Rather than recording the exact time of the incident, using descriptors may be more meaningful, as the exact time an incident occurred would not be meaningful outside of the school building-while 8:15 a.m. might be "before school hours" on one campus, it could be "during class" at another. Using these descriptors permits greater comparability across schools and districts. Additionally, given that over the course of the school year adjustments to the school schedule do occur (e.g., snow days), while 9:00 a.m. might be "during class" most of the time, on the day of a particular incident it may be "before class." Specific time descriptors will be useful if users are trying to identify when problem behavior is most likely to occur.

Although specific descriptors are recommended, this may not be useful for all schools and districts. For this reason, the coding structure permits the more specific codes that describe exactly when "during school hours" (110-199) an incident occurred to be subsumed under the general "during school hours" code (100). Thus, two locales need not both use specific codes for all incidents during school hours to be comparable.

100 During School Hours Select from specific codes below. Use these codes for incidents occurring during the regular school day.
     110  Before classes The incident occurred before the start of regular classes.
  120 During class The incident occurred during a regular class period.
  130 During passing The incident occurred while students were in transit between regular classes.
  140 During lunch/recess The incident occurred during lunch or recess.
  150 After classes The incident occurred after the end of regular classes.
  197 Other time during school hours The time when the incident occurred cannot be captured by the above categories, but did take place during school hours.
200 In Transit The incident occurred while students were on the way to or from school.
  210 On the way to school The incident occurred while students were on their way to school.
     220 On the way from school The incident occurred while students were on their way from school.
300 Outside School Hours Select from specific codes below. Use these codes for incidents that occurred outside of school hours at times when students were not in transit to or from school.
  310 School-sponsored activity The incident occurred during a school-sponsored activity. Examples might include athletic events, academic clubs or other school programs.
  320 Nonschool-sponsored activity The incident did not occur during a school-sponsored event, but it involved one or more students.
  397 Other The time when the incident occurred cannot be captured by the above categories, but did take place outside school hours.
999 Unknown It is unknown when the incident occurred.

Location (Where). This variable identifies where the incident occurred. The primary codes for this variable capture whether the incident occurred on or off the school campus. Again, record specific information about where an incident occurred. For example, rather than simply recording that an incident occurred on campus, record that it took place in a classroom. Specific location descriptors will be useful if users are trying to identify where problem behavior is most likely to occur.

100 On Campus Select from specific codes below. Use these codes for incidents occurring on the school campus.
     101  Administrative offices The incident occurred in a school office (e.g., main office, principal's office).
  102 Cafeteria The incident occurred in the cafeteria or in another area where students eat meals.
  103 Classroom The incident occurred inside a classroom.
  104 Hallway or stairs The incident occurred in a hallway or stairwell.
  105 Locker room or gym The incident occurred in a locker room or gym facility.
  106 Restroom The incident occurred in a bathroom.
  107 Library/Media center The incident occurred in a library or media center.
  108 Computer lab The incident occurred in a computer lab.
  109 Auditorium The incident occurred in an auditorium.
  129 Other inside area The incident occurred in another area inside the school building(s).
  130 Athletic field or playground The incident occurred on an athletic field or playground.
  131 Stadium The incident occurred in a stadium.
  132 Parking lot The incident occurred in the school parking lot.
  197 Other outside area The locale where the incident occurred cannot be captured by one of the above categories, but did take place on campus.
200 Off Campus Select from specific codes below. Use these codes for incidents occurring off the school campus.
  201 Bus stop The incident occurred at a bus stop.
  202 School bus The incident occurred on a school bus.
  203 Walking to or from school The incident occurred while students were walking to or from school.
  210 Other school The incident occurred at another school in the district.
  297 Other off-campus location The location where the incident occurred cannot be captured by one of the above categories, but took place off campus.
999 Unknown The incident occurred at an unknown location.


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National Center for Education Statistics - http://nces.ed.gov
U.S. Department of Education