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Unsafe Schools Choice Policy

The Unsafe Schools Choice Policy provides for any student who attends a persistently dangerous school, or any student who has been the victim of a violent crime while at school, the opportunity to attend a safe school.

Frequently Asked Questions

What schools and school systems are subject to the policy?

All public schools and school systems are subject to the policy as it relates to student victimization relative to a violent crime.  Schools established specifically for serving suspended or expelled students or students with behavioral disabilities are not subject to the persistently dangerous criteria and sanctions.

Are there any requirements regarding parental notification of the policy itself?

Yes.  Every public school must annually notify parents that if their child is the victim of a violent crime at school, the child has the right to attend another grade-appropriate public school in the district.  Sample notification language is provided in the attachments to this document.

What data will be considered in identifying a persistently dangerous school?

Two sources of data shall be utilized to identify persistently dangerous schools – the Annual Report on Zero Tolerance Offenses and the Student Victimization of Violent Crime Incident Report.  Three categories from the Zero Tolerance Report shall be considered: Firearms, Battery of a Teacher or Staff, and Weapons Other Than A Firearm.  All incidents of student victimization relative to a violent crime shall be considered.  When the sum of the three specified categories of zero tolerance violations and incidents of student victimization exceed 3% of the school’s enrollment for a period of three consecutive years, the school shall be designated as persistently dangerous.

What must be done if a school is identified as being persistently dangerous?

Within 30 days of receiving notice that a school has been identified as persistently dangerous, parents or guardians of all students attending the school must be notified that the school has been designated by the Tennessee Department of Education as a persistently dangerous school and must be provided the opportunity to transfer to a safe school.  Additionally, the school system must submit a corrective action plan to the Commissioner of Education outlining the specific actions and timetable that the school shall follow to insure the safety of students and faculty.

 Will the school have an opportunity to appeal the designation?

A school designated as a persistently dangerous school may appeal the designation.  The appeal must be submitted by the director of schools to the Commissioner of Education within 15 calendar days of being notified of the designation and must present clear evidence that the school provides a safe and disciplined learning environment for all students.  A committee of practitioners selected by the Commissioner shall review the appeal within 15 calendar days of submittal.

The policy stipulates that a school will be designated persistently dangerous when the prescribed incidents exceed 3% of enrollment for three consecutive years.  What will happen when a school exceeds the 3% threshold for the first and/or second year?

When a school exceeds the 3% threshold for the first year, the Department shall notify the director of schools so that available state and federal resources can be directed to the school.  When a school exceeds the 3% threshold for the second consecutive year the Commissioner shall notify the director of schools and request that a corrective action plan be submitted to the Department.

When will a designated school no longer be considered persistently dangerous?

Upon implementation of the approved corrective action plan and the completion of one school year with a level of incidents below the 3% threshold, a school shall no longer be considered persistently dangerous and all sanctions shall be removed.

When is a student considered to be the victim of a violent crime at school?

A student is considered to be the victim of a violent crime at school when evidence is found to reasonably indicate that the student was the victim of any of the applicable offenses cited in TCA 40-38-111(g), or the attempt to commit one of these offenses as defined under TCA 30-12-101, and the offense occurred while the student was attending school or traveling to or from school on a school bus.

Do criminal charges or a juvenile court petition have to be filed against a suspected or known perpetrator in order for the student to be considered a victim?  Does the perpetrator have to be a student?

The answer to both questions is ‘No’.

What are the specific offenses that are cited in TCA 40-38-111(g)?

Aggravated arson, Aggravated assault, Aggravated child abuse and neglect, Aggravated kidnapping, Aggravated rape, Aggravated robbery, Aggravated sexual battery, Aggravated spousal rape, Spousal rape and spousal sexual battery, Aggravated vehicular homicide, Carjacking, Criminally negligent homicide, Especially aggravated burglary, Especially aggravated kidnapping, Especially aggravated robbery, First degree murder, Incest, Kidnapping, Rape, Rape of a child, Reckless homicide, Second degree murder, Sexual battery by an authority figure, Sexual battery, Stalking, Statutory rape, Vehicular assault, and Voluntary manslaughter.

What actions must be taken when an alleged incident of student violent crime victimization has occurred?

When an alleged incident occurs, the building administrator or a designated representative shall immediately report the incident to the appropriate law enforcement agency.  Promptly following an investigation by law enforcement officials, the building administrator or a designated representative shall determine whether reasonable evidence exists to indicate that the student has been the victim of one of the previously cited offenses. 

Upon determining that a student has been victimized, and within 10 school days of the event, the director of schools shall offer the student and his/her parent(s) or guardian(s) safe school choice.  A sample letter may be found below.  The building administrator or a designated representative shall also file a Student Victim of a Violent Crime Form with the Tennessee Department of Education.  A copy of the report may also be downloaded below.  One report should be submitted for each student victim.

What is meant by the term “Safe School Choice”?

Safe School Choice means that the student and his/her parent(s) or guardian(s) are provided an opportunity to transfer to another school within the local education agency (LEA).  To the extent possible, the LEA shall allow transferring students to transfer to a school that is making adequate yearly progress as defined by the State’s accountability system.  The LEA is also encouraged to take into account the needs and preferences of the transferring students and parents.

How long must the student be provided with Safe School Choice?

For students who are the victim of a violent crime at school, Safe School Choice must be provided until at least the remainder of the school year.  However, LEA’s are encouraged to consider the needs and preferences of the victimized student and parents when making this decision.  Students attending a persistently dangerous school must be provided Safe School Choice until the school’s persistently dangerous designation has been removed.

Who must assume responsibility for transportation costs associated with Safe School Choice?

The local education agency (LEA) is responsible for transportation costs associated with Safe School Choice.

What if there is no other grade-level appropriate school in the LEA?

LEA’s are encouraged, but not required, to explore other appropriate options such as an agreement with a neighboring LEA to accept transfer students.

Who should I call if I have any questions regarding the implementation of the Unsafe School Choice Policy in my district or school?

The point-of-contact for this policy is Pat Conner.  Mrs. Conner can be reached by phone at (615) 741-3248 or by email at Pat.Conner@tn.gov.