The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) introduced sweeping changes to public elementary and secondary education. Under NCLB, the federal government seeks to emphasize school success through the use of indexes to measure student achievement. 

A portion of the No Child Left Behind Act permits students to transfer to another school if their current school is deemed to be “persistently dangerous.”

When Is a School Considered to Be Persistently Dangerous?

According to the No Child Left Behind Act, a school is deemed to be persistently dangerous if they record at least two consecutive years of “serious incidents."

“Serious incidents” in a school can include:

  • Homicides
  • Criminal offenses of a sexual nature
  • Possession or use of a weapon, including threats with a weapon
  • Other serious crimes such as arson, kidnapping, or child endangerment

If a serious incident has occurred, the school will factor the incident into a ratio involving serious incidents compared to student enrollment.  Each serious incident is assigned a score based on its seriousness. The scores for the serious incidents are added, and the sum is divided by the student enrollment for the school. The resulting figure is called the “school violence index.”

A school is considered to be persistently dangerous if it has had a school violence index of 1.5 for a period of at least two consecutive years. This index translates into about 6 incidents for every 100 students. A school is also persistently dangerous if it has a school violence index of at least 50 and had at least 60 serious incidents, regardless of when the incidents took place. 

What If a School Is Persistently Dangerous?

If a school is found to be persistently dangerous for two or more years, the school board is required to take action to provide the students with alternative educational options. Under NCLB, these options include:

  • Offering eligible students the opportunity to transfer to a different school with higher performance standards and a lower school violence index
  • Providing free tutoring to students
  • Encouraging participation in after-school programs

Alternatively, a school district may be given a chance to modify their current curriculum and policies to provide a safer learning environment for students. Measures that successful school boards have implemented include:

  • Revising and enforcing the school district’s code of conduct
  • Creating or improving safety plans in response to serious incidents
  • Providing students with additional support from mentors, guides, or family members
  • Conducting an analysis to determine which areas need additional intervention

By law, the school board is required to respond if the school is in critical condition due to serious incidents.  If the district fails to implement these required measures, they may be subject to an investigation by the Department of Education, or they may even be subject to a civil or administrative lawsuit in serious cases. 

Do I Need a Lawyer If My Child’s School Is Persistently Dangerous?

If your child’s school has been classified as “persistently dangerous,” you may wish to get more involved in your child’s educational situation.  For example, you may wish to attend local school board meetings or schedule a meeting with a superintendent so you can voice your concerns.  If the school district has failed to implement corrective measures, you may wish to speak with a government lawyer for assistance with initiating further action, such as filing a complaint with a government administrative agency.