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I-Team: High Crime Rates At Suburban Schools

By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve
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WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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BOSTON (CBS) – Assaults, illegal drugs and weapons in the classroom.

The I-Team found some of the highest rates of crimes and other offenses committed by students are not just in the inner city, but in suburban schools too.

The I-Team analyzed crime data reported to the state over the last two years by school districts in 138 cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts.

When it came to offenses like physical attacks, sexual assaults and drugs and alcohol, three suburban communities made it into the I-Team’s top twenty ranking of schools with the highest overall rates of offenses.

Peabody ranked fifth, Randolph sixth and Wakefield eighteenth.

Former Boston Police Officer Willie Bradley was hired last spring to fill a newly created position in Randolph, director of safety and security for the schools, as the town struggled to rein in student violence.

“I thought that I was gonna be walking into a situation that was extremely volatile, and that was not the case,” Bradley said.

He insisted that Randolph’s student crime problem is not that bad when compared with other communities, even though that is exactly what the I-Team did — compare school offense rates.

“A lot of times students have chosen the wrong path long before they even get here,” said Peabody Veterans Memorial High School Principal Ed Sapienza.

He said if the I-Team found Peabody ranks high in offenses rates, then it must be a question of reporting.

“I simply think what it does is mischaracterize what the school is,” Sapienza said. “When you look at the incidents, because we do report them, and we’re conscientious about maintaining discipline in school and things do get recorded, I think that just simply adds to the list.”

Wakefield officials would not talk to us on camera about school crime, but the security gate in that town outside Northeast Metro Tech would seem to indicate student safety is a concern

Offenses at that vocational school helped put suburban Wakefield near the top of the school offense rankings.

“When parents let their children go off to school, regardless of the age, they expect that school has to be one of those safe havens where they should be entitled to learn,” said Norfolk County District Attorney Michael Morrissey.

Morrissey works closely with many school officials in Norfolk County on student crime, including the security chief in Randolph, Willie Bradley.

We asked Bradley about a junior at Randolph High School who last spring told the school committee, “The fights are so terrifying that if I’m not with someone, I don’t want to go to class.”

That student also told the committee she was even not sure she wanted to come back for her senior year.

“I think that’s a very sad commentary in a public academic environment,” Bradley said.

The state relies on each local district to thoroughly report crimes that occur in their schools. That may mean some schools that are diligent in their reporting end up with higher offense rates.

In response to the I-Team’s findings, officials at Northeast Metro Tech in Wakefield are now saying they may have over-reported the number of student offenses at the school and they’re looking into it.

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