Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reported a laughed at student misconductcrime and violence during the 2021-22 school year compared to years immediately before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to state data released Wednesday.
Assaults on school personnel rose 51% in 2021-22 compared to the 2018-19 school year. There were four more bomb threats, and the number of guns found on campuses increased from 22 to 29, which was a record for the district. CMS also saw drug possession reports increase 14.5%.
A total of 1,532 acts of crime or violence across all campuses in CMS were reported during the 2021-22 school year compared to 1,200 for the 2018-2019 school year, a 28% increase. The numbers are reflected in crime and violence reports per 1,000 CMS students increasing from 8.18 to 10.98 across the same time span.
Brian Schultz, CMS’ chief of operations, told The Charlotte Observer the crime data reflects challenges districts faced when schools resumed in-person learning after going remote during the height of the pandemic. He says district officials are working to lower crime.
“Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools is dedicated to maintaining a safe and secure environment for our students and staff,” Schultz said, “and we work daily to evaluate, modify and bolster our efforts to reduce crime.”
Across North Carolina, CMS, Wake County Public Schools, Winston Salem/Forsyth County Schools and Cumberland County Schools reported the highest total acts of crime. They’re also among the largest districts by enrollment in North Carolina.
Solutions in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools
After a record number of guns turned up in CMS during the first half of the 2021-22 school year, district leadership took steps to curb the crisis. They included body scanners, a reporting app and more opportunities for students to participate in conversations about guns and safety.
Then-Superintendent Earnest Winston also pleaded with families to prevent students from bringing guns to school, and CMS turned to community partners for help, sharing strategies such as the Alternative to Violence program.
The city and county launched the program in the Beatties Ford area in the spring of 2021 as a “violence interruption” initiative offering pathways to employment and affordable housing.
CMS data reflects broader trends
District data reflected similar trends across the state and nation, according to the annual report compiled for the NC General Assembly and presented Wednesday to the State Board of Education.
While some types of crimes in CMS saw a dramatic increase, others went down. From the 2018-19 school year to the 2021-22 year:
▪ Assaults involving a weapon dropped from eight to seven in the district.
▪ Sexual assaults dropped 67% — from 24 to eight.
“We examine every data point and review what steps are needed to reduce crime in our schools,” Schultz said. “We are pleased with the progress that we have made but we still have work to do with our staff, students, and community to make schools as safe as possible for everyone. “
Among just CMS high school students, 767 acts of crime or violence were reported during the 2021-22 school year, the second highest in the state compared to Wake County’s 869 incidents. CMS had 8,668 high school suspensions during 2021-22.
Across the state, possession of controlled substance reports rose 14% in 2021-22 compared to the pre-pandemic year of 2018-19; possession of a weapon (not including firearms or explosives) jumped 60% from 2018-19 (30% from 2017-18); and possession of a firearm or powerful explosive increased 30% from 2018-19.
Among NC high school students, a total of 5,991 acts of crime and violence were reported during the 2021-22 school year, compared to 4,850 reported for the 2018-19 school year. The rate of crime and violence per 1,000 students increased from 10.73 to 13.16 across the same time span.
“We know that the pandemic and its aftermath have created significant challenges for students, educators and their schools,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt said in a news release. “We’re taking aggressive steps to respond this year, and we’re seeking more resources for next year to provide students with the help that they need.”
Truitt pointed to millions of dollars being used in districts for safety equipment, school resource officers and services for students in crisis, among others.