Saved by the Bell?

Safety in America's schools — from truancy to sex crimes.

"It's pretty sad; that's the bottom line," says Dale Yeager, noted criminal analyst and CEO of SERAPH Inc.

The state of school safety in this country is an issue this long-time researcher and profiler knows something about. Commissioned by select members of Congress to research the state of school safety in America, Yeager and his team at SERAPH have spent time in more than 20,000 public schools nationwide, training and collecting data.

Each year, they visit approximately 200 school districts, surveying and teaching administrators, educators and other personnel about school safety issues. This team assesses trends not addressed by the Justice Department, such as sexual assault by teachers.

"The State of School Safety in American Schools" version released this year includes management assessments of more than 1,200 teachers, 320 administrators and 925 law enforcement officers in rural, suburban and urban districts across America.

Get me to the school on time

"Truancy is the root of all school safety problems," Yeager says. "This is the frustration I hear from police departments: 'I know these kids are out running around. My people see them every day.' "

Getting a handle on truancy is a job that must be undertaken by all parties involved, including and not limited to the schools, police, social services, etc. Two problems will occur, Yeager emphasizes, when there is not a truancy enforcement program in schools.

First, there is a greater chance of gang activity. "Kids out running the streets are more likely to be recruited by gangs," he says. "And that certainly becomes a law enforcement problem."

Second, as educators, schools will find themselves not in compliance with the "No Child Left Behind" initiative, which by law requires schools to track lateness and absenteeism for every student from grades kindergarten through 12. The problem with this, Yeager points out, is schools are in a position to lose their federal funding if this happens.

"Ultimately, law enforcement ends up being the cleanup crew for the lack of attention schools pay to truancy," he says. "The culprits are the school districts, local courts, social service agencies and political people in that community who don't understand truancy is not an urban problem — it's an everybody problem."

Truancy, he adds, feeds into the arena of young sexual predators, sex crimes, gang activity, negative cliques and all the problems associated with them.

"Give me a break." That's what kids want these days. And, according to Yeager, school officials and social workers are more than willing to give them one.

"Here's another problem — the unbalanced disciplinary system in a lot of schools," he says. "Where we see that affecting kids is with probation, which is certainly a law enforcement issue."

Having help in breaking probation only leads a kid to believe that no law pertains to him.

They're hitting the sheets

"Police departments need to come to terms with sex crimes," Yeager says. "More and more sexual assault and paraphelia is happening with children. We're seeing sex aggression in 6/7-year-old kids."

Dysfunctional families, he explains, have a severe amount of sexual dysfunction. If children grow up around behaviors like that, they will model what they see.

Gang initiations for females have become gang rape. Female cliques have taken to hazing, which is very violent, and homosexual, in nature. "This is something, that if police departments don't know how to handle correctly and understand, they will be in a political soup they can't climb out of," Yeager explains.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls the increasing number of STDs in students an epidemic. Yeager's group credits the increase to behaviors such as multiple sex partners, the popularity of oral sex in middle schools and increase of students engaged in same-sex relationships.

"You can't just say this stuff doesn't happen," he stresses. "It does and is. Oral sex has become like changing your socks. We have yet to be in a middle school that didn't have huge problems with this."

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