School shootings always grab national attention and can tarnish a school’s reputation for decades, but shootings also are the rarest form of school violence.
Much more common are bullying, fighting and bringing dangerous weapons to school.
So how do local schools compare to one another in these categories?
A Durango Herald investigation showed that Ignacio High School and Ignacio Junior High rank highest in several problem areas based on per capita numbers – the number of incidents compared with the number of students.
IHS Principal Melanie Taylor said that’s because her school pays close attention to the numbers and submits accurate data to the Colorado Department of Education, which tracks the information.
“We record them,” she said. “We think it’s important. You shouldn’t falsely say that your school is possibly safe when you might need some intervention, you might need some help.”
Schools are on an honor system in reporting accurate numbers to the Department of Education. It seems apparent not all incidents go recorded: Durango High School reported 27 drug incidents last year, but IHS and Bayfield High School reported far fewer, six and two, respectively.
The Herald looked at seven years of data for every school in La Plata County’s three school districts: Durango, Bayfield and Ignacio.
The data track the number of incidents for a variety of delinquent behaviors, including drugs, alcohol, tobacco, assaults, robberies, dangerous weapons, disobedience and destruction of property.
DHS ranks highest in total number of incidents for all seven years – from 2005-06 through 2011-12 – but it also has the most students.
Based on per capita comparisons, Ignacio schools claim the top three spots for number of incidents, followed by Bayfield Middle School (fourth), Escalante Middle School (fifth), Miller Middle School (sixth), DHS (seventh) and Bayfield High School (eighth).
Even though it ranks high, IHS remains a safe school, Taylor said. It has security cameras, outside doors are locked and it is a tight-knit community, she said.
Gang members from Farmington parked in the high school parking lot last year, she said. She confronted them, and they said they were waiting for a cousin.
“Not on my campus. You have on gang colors, you need to go off campus,” and they left, Taylor said. “We noticed because they’re not our kids. We know who our kids are. We know who their parents are. It is good that you’re in a small school district, and you recognize people.”
She added: “I’ve walked into Durango schools, and no one even questioned me for a long time.”
The total number of incidents reported during the last seven years has declined, from a high of 1,611 in 2005-06 to 437 incidents last year.
Aaron Cash, a senior at DHS, said he has noticed a downward trend in the number of violent incidents.
“Our generation is becoming less violent,” he said. “We don’t need to use violence to resolve issues. You talk to people. You see counselors.”