S.C. School District’s Crime Reports Differ From Police Figures

District officials offered several explanations for the differences in crime statistics.
Published: April 1, 2016

An examination of a South Carolina school district’s annual crime reports found discrepancies between what the school is reporting and what local police are investigating.

The crime statistics that Greenville County School District has sent to the Department of Education showed far fewer incidents in each offense category than what has been recorded in police logs, according to The Greenville News.

Between the 2011-2012 school year and the 2013-2014 school year, the district reported 75 serious offenses in seven crime categories, compared to 286 offenses in similar categories counted in a review of incident reports and arrest records during that time.

Below is a comparison of crime reports by the district and local police in four major crime categories between 2011 and 2013:

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  • The district’s report included zero forcible sex offenses in that time while a review of police reports found 18 criminal sex offenses on Greenville County school grounds
  • The district reported 56 weapons offenses while police reports show at least 224
  • The district reported six aggravated assaults and similar offenses while police reports show 17 such crimes
  • The district reported 12 drug distribution offenses while police reports showed 23

School District Superintendent Burke Royster offered several reasons for the discrepancies. Royster said the state’s crime reporting system has “way too many classifications for similar offenses,” which he said creates confusion. Certain actions may also be considered crimes by police but not school officials, he said.

A Greenville County Schools spokesman said the district uses a different reporting system than law enforcement. For example, the district only records crimes committed by students. Royster called for a reexamination of the crime reporting system and others pointed to reporting “gray areas” as reasons for discrepancies.

A Department of Education official said that each state “determines their own definition [of persistently dangerous schools] and reports to us accordingly.”

Still, in some cases district officials admitted the Department of Education’s crime stats for the district seemed low. One district spokesman conceded that administrators “probably made a mistake” when they reported zero robberies over three school years.

“What’s reported to the state typically grossly underestimates the real picture,” National School Safety and Security Services President Ken Trump said. “Parents don’t know what they don’t know, and nobody’s rushing to tell them.”

Superintendent Royster disagreed with Trump’s assessment of the crime reports.

Greenville County is the biggest school district in South Carolina with approximately 76,000 students.

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