Good news for students, bad for teachers in crime-in-schools report

Students are assaulting and committing other criminal acts against one another at the lowest rates in more than two decades, according to a new federal report about crime on grade and high school campuses.

The same can't be said for how students are treating their teachers.

The "Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2017" report says the number of students ages 12-18 who reported being victims at school fell from 10 percent in 1995 to 3 percent in 2015. That includes both thefts (down from 7 percent to 2 percent) and violent crimes (3 percent to 1 percent). And the declines held true regardless of gender, age and race or whether the school was urban, suburban or rural.

The decline follows a general trend nationwide, where both violent and overall crime rates have dropped significantly since the mid-1990s.

Teachers targeted

While that's good news for students, the report's findings weren't nearly as positive for those leading the class.

According to the data, 10 percent of public school teachers reported being threatened by a student during the 2015-16 school year, up from 7 percent in 2003-04. Teachers being physically attacked by a student rose to 6 percent from about 4 percent over the same period.

Surprisingly, to us at least, elementary school teachers were more likely to be threatened and assaulted than their high school colleagues, the report found.

Richard Johnson, president of the Elgin Teachers Association, which represents about 2,400 teachers in Elgin Area School District U-46, said there's no obvious reason for the increase, but a few possible factors. One, he said, could be students acting out in school because of traumatic experiences at home.

School districts like U-46 are trying to do more, especially at the early childhood level, to reach those children before their issues manifest themselves through violence.

"Maybe the numbers aren't bearing it out yet, but I think we'll start seeing (success)," he said.

It could also be a consequence of school districts' laudable efforts to keep students with behavioral problems in the classroom, Johnson said.

"The only way kids are going to be successful in school is for them to be in school," he said. "(In the past), maybe we just throw a kid with behavioral issues out. We don't do that anymore."

<h3 class="leadin">Hanging 'em up

Andy Anderson is retiring next week after nearly 20 years as the director of Lake County Crime Stoppers. Courtesy of Lake County Crime Stoppers

He hasn't been a law enforcement officer since the late '90s, but Andy Anderson has helped crack thousands of cases, recovered millions of dollars in stolen property and put hundreds of criminals behind bars over the past two decades.

That incredible run of success comes to an end Monday when Anderson steps down as executive director of Lake County Crime Stoppers. Anderson, a Wheeling resident, took on the role in 1998, about a year before he retired from his job as a Lake County sheriff's deputy.

Crime Stoppers allows people to anonymously provide tips to help police resolve unsolved cases. Tips that lead to arrests and/or convictions are eligible for rewards of up to $1,000.

"It's very important because law enforcement needs all the eyes and ears it can get, and so many people who know or hear about a crime that's taken place or is about to take place want to stay anonymous," he told us this week.

Anderson cited health issues as the reason for his retirement.

Since its creation in 1983, Lake County Crime Stoppers has received tips leading to 6,785 arrests, the seizure of more than $23 million in illegal drugs and the recovery of $6 million in stolen property, Anderson said. It's also handed out more than $1 million in rewards to tipsters.

"It's an organization that works," he said.

<h3 class="leadin">Park ban upheld

Public parks will remain off-limits for some convicted sex offenders, under a ruling the Illinois Supreme Court handed down Thursday in a suburban case.

Justices unanimously overturned an appellate court ruling that declared unconstitutional a state law that makes it a crime for a sexual predator or a child sex offender to be on park property.

The appellate court reasoned that the law bears no reasonable relationship with protecting the public, but Supreme Court justices disagreed.

"We conclude that there is a rational relation between protecting the public, particularly children, from sex offenders and prohibiting sex offenders who have been convicted of crimes against minors from being present in public parks across the state," Justice Mary Jane Theis wrote.

The case stems from the 2013 arrest of Marc A. Pepitone while he was walking his dog in Bolingbrook's Indian Boundary Park. Pepitone had been convicted of predatory criminal sexual assault of a child in 1999 and sentenced to six years in prison. He later was found guilty of a misdemeanor for being in a park and sentenced to conditional discharge plus 100 hours of public service.

<h3 class="leadin">Thank a dispatcher

  April 8-14 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, in recognition of the work emergency dispatchers do to keep our communities safe and help citizens through crisis situations. Steve Lundy/, 2014

While police officers, sheriff's deputies and federal agents get well-deserved recognition for serving on the front lines of law enforcement, next week it's time to give thanks to those who fill crucial roles behind the scenes.

April 8-14 is National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week, a recognition of the more than 200,000 emergency dispatchers across the country who serve as a critical link between first responders and the public.

"Too often the work of professional telecommunicators goes unnoticed," Vernon Hills police said in an announcement. Village leaders on Tuesday read a proclamation honoring its telecommunicators.

Beyond just dispatching police and first responders, telecommunicators can find themselves calming people in the midst of a crisis, helping callers through a medical emergency or instructing citizens on how to get out of a dangerous situation.

<h3 class="leadin">Deputy sues sheriff

A Kane County sheriff's deputy is suing his boss in federal court, saying he's being discriminated against because of his service in the Illinois National Guard.

In the suit filed March 28, Trevor Hoyt alleges that a supervisor, Deputy Chief Thomas Bumgarner, initially denied him permission to join the Guard because he would be gone too many days, and that other deputies might also want to join. Bumgarner relented, the suit says, when Hoyt threatened to complain to the Illinois Department of Labor's Veterans Affairs Division.

Hoyt has been a sheriff's deputy since February 2012. He joined the National Guard in the summer of 2015.

After joining the Guard, Hoyt was twice denied requests to become a police-dog handler and to become a bomb technician. He would have been paid an extra $150 a month for each duty, his suit states.

Hoyt also claims the sheriff's department retroactively refused his request for an unpaid leave for a one-week Guard training stint and forced him to use his "accrued benefit time" instead.

All these violate the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act and the Illinois Military Leave of Absence Act, Hoyt said.

Sheriff Donald Kramer could not be reached Thursday for comment.

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