Data shows mixed picture for AHS

Violence in the nation’s schools stirs the media to frenzy, flooding the Internet with grisly images of mangled bodies and security footage showing gunmen murdering children in what ought to be their sanctuary. Though not the first of its kind, the school shooting at Columbine High School in 1999 shocked the nation into implementing new security policies designed to protect students. Although no such incidents have occurred in FCPS, the county is no exception to these policies.

In order to survive in the post-Columbine world, new cameras have been installed, security staffs expanded and security plans are under constant revision. Although AHS makes every effort to prevent incidents of both large and small scale, the administration cannot control everything; incidents are bound to occur. This is illustrated by the data in FCPS’s Safe and Secure profiles for each school in the county for the 2007-2008 school year.

Statistically speaking, AHS has 15 incidents per 1000 students, the third greatest figure in all of Fairfax County’s 25 high schools, topped only by Mount Vernon High School’s 31 incidents per 1000 and Hayfield’s 16 per 1000.

Such a high figure seems to shock many AHS students. “This is really surprising to me,” said junior Jon Le. “I always hear that AHS is one of the safest schools in the county.”

While AHS is currently the third largest school in they county, the data was collected when it was the fifth, making the fact that AHS had the second highest total number of incidents behind Mount Vernon disproportional.

“It is really safe here, nothing ever happens,” said junior Tiffany Mims. “It is kind of funny that the statistics are so high, because we really do not see a lot of fights or anything here.”

In a FLEX survey answered by 312 AHS students, many students display concern about the safety and security measures at the school.

Another significant number can be found in the rates of serious incidents at AHS and FCPS high schools. A serious incident, as classified by the county, is “assault, malicious wounding, homicides, rape, sexual battery and use of any weapon that is designed to explode.” AHS reported seven of these to the county, meaning that a little over three serious incidents occur per 1000 students, making AHS the school with the eighth highest rate of such incidents.

Madison High School experienced the lowest rate, reporting zero serious incidents for the 2007-2008 year. This is closely followed by Chantilly, Woodson, Fairfax and Thomas Jefferson High Schools, each of which had only one serious incident.

These schools also reported less than five fights, among the lowest in the county. AHS, however, reported 19 fights, the second largest number in the county. However, when these numbers examined in relation to the population of each school, AHS came in fourth, with approximately nine fights per 1000 students. Mount Vernon, Stuart and Hayfield High Schools all had a higher incidence rate, with 20, 15 and 15 fights respectively. These schools, along with AHS and Lee High School, were the only schools in the county to experience over ten fights.

In a survey distributed Jan. 14 during R7/R3 FLEX to English classes, students were asked to describe how safe they feel in school. Out of 400 surveys distributed 312 were returned by 75 freshmen, 58 sophomores, 95 juniors and 84 seniors and used to compile results.

Although AHS reported a relatively high number of incidents, students overwhelmingly expressed the opinion that they feel safe in school. In fact, 86 percent of students surveyed indicated that they always or mostly felt safe in school, although male students were seven percent more likely to feel this way than female students.

In total, one percent more boys than girls rarely feel safe in school and only four percent of the students surveyed fit into this category. Freshmen also feel much less secure than seniors do at school, with 49 percent of seniors indicating that they always feel safe, while only 36 percent of freshman identifying the same way.

Students also indicated that they feel confident in the hands of the AHS administration, with 48 percent of students responding that they feel that the administration takes security very seriously, as percent of students surveyed felt that the administration takes security mostly seriously, and only 20 percent felt that security was taken semi-seriously or not seriously at all.

Although students at AHS feel very safe, when compared with those at other schools in the region AHS saw a higher number of incidents, even when the field was leveled by taking into account the differences in population between schools. While violence at AHS is nowhere near the levels it used to reach and many positive changes have been made, the data shows that AHS still is near the bottom of the pack in terms of incidents.