Luzerne County schools saw a surge in discipline infractions last year, according to the latest state School Safety Reports, with fighting and tobacco offenses leading the way.
The data posted on the state safe schools website show that, of 31 categories with offenses reported in Luzerne County in the last two years, the number of incidents increased in 21 categories, while it decreased in seven. Total number of incidents countywide rose from 666 in 2010-11 to 792 last year.
That's still substantially fewer than two years ago, when schools reported 903 incidents.
The state notes that numbers for the 2011-12 school year could undergo revisions as the self-reporting process is completed.
As has generally been the case since the state started including tobacco offenses in the reports, that category led the totals countywide. It was the top category in seven of 11 area districts.
Fighting topped the list in three others, while disorderly conduct had the highest total in Wilkes-Barre Area.
As always, the statistics come with a very large caveat: It is all self-reported, and while the state has taken multiple steps to improve uniformity in reporting – and most districts have also taken steps to assure accuracy – the fact remains that different people might see the same incident differently: One person's fight could be another person's harassment.
Comparing the number of incidents among districts for a given category also can be misleading because of the disparity in total enrollment. Northwest Area, the county's smallest district, had 1,151 students in 2011-12, according to the report data, while the county's largest district, Hazleton, had 10,337. So the state also provides the number of incidents per 100 students, essentially a comparison of frequency.
By that measure, Northwest Area's 10 cases of possession/use or sale of tobacco is the worst in the county at a rate of 0.87 incidents per 100 students. Hazleton Area's 22 cases, on the other hand, make a rate of 0.21 cases per 100 students.
Some other highlights:
• Countywide, there was a steep increase in sale/possession/use or under the influence of alcohol, from 14 to 40. Wilkes-Barre Area had the highest number of cases, 13, but in the county's second-largest district, that's 0.18 cases per 100 students. Lake-Lehman had the highest rate of alcohol offenses, 0.4 cases per 100 students, or eight total.
• There was an increase in knife possession, from 34 to 47. Greater Nanticoke Area had the most incidents at 13, which also was the highest frequency at 0.59 cases per 100 students. Wilkes-Barre Area was second number-wise at 12 incidents, or 0.17 cases per 100 students.
• The biggest declines came in simple assault on student and reckless endangering – both fell by six from the prior year, though the former dropped from 30 to 24 while the latter went from seven to one.
• There were three incidents of possession of a handgun countywide, all in Hazleton Area.
There was an increase in knife possession, from 34 to 47. Greater Nanticoke Area had the most incidents at 13.