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Student Sex Assault Reports and How They Vary By State

32 states and the District of Columbia maintain information, though it is inconsistent and sometimes incomplete

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    Student Sex Assault Reports and How They Vary By State
    David Goldman/AP, File
    In this Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017, file photo, a school bus drives through Estill, S.C. There are no national requirements for U.S. elementary and secondary schools to track student sexual assaults, But 32 states and the District of Columbia maintain information. The Associated Press found that the information is inconsistent and sometimes incomplete.

    Unlike colleges and universities, there are no national requirements for U.S. elementary and secondary schools to track student sexual assaults. But 32 states and the District of Columbia do maintain information, though it is inconsistent and sometimes incomplete, The Associated Press found.

    Some states required school districts to log any student sexual assault on school property or at school-sponsored events, but others required reporting of only those assaults resulting in certain types of student discipline. In Michigan, for example, the state counted only expulsions. So one Lansing high school was able to report no sexual assaults in 2015 while AP found a case in which a student was suspended and later charged with criminal sexual conduct. Additionally, some states masked the actual number of student sexual attacks if they fell beneath a certain threshold.

    Whether and how an incident was recorded — as sexual assault or something less serious — was often left to school districts' discretion. Education officials in a half-dozen states told AP they didn't think their data reflected the full extent of the problem. In addition, some of the nation's largest school districts — including those with student enrollments over 100,000 — reported no rapes or sexual assaults for multiple years, even though AP identified cases through public records or news accounts.

    In the 18 states with no reporting requirements, cases can go unnoticed, such as the 2010 sexual assault of a girl in a Muncie, Indiana, high school bathroom, which resulted in a boy's guilty plea.

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    AP compared state education agency information from fall 2011 to spring 2015 — across the four academic years for which most reported — counting only the most severe forms of sexual assault, such as rape, sodomy, forced oral sex, penetration with an object or unwanted fondling.

    For states with no education data, AP looked to the National Incident-Based Reporting System, a database of participating states' crime reports collected by the FBI. AP used the two most recent publicly available years of NIBRS data — 2013 and 2014.

    By mining those records, the AP was able to uncover about 17,000 official reports of student sex assault — an undercount due to the significant under-reporting and spotty categorization.

    A state-by-state summary:

    ALABAMA

    The state education department received information from school districts and, in some years, schools on incidents of sexual battery by students, including actual or attempted penetration, fondling and child molestation, especially where the victim was unable to give consent. The department reported 43 assaults over the four-year period and said it generally doesn't try to verify the information.

    ALASKA

    The state education department tracked incidents leading to student suspension and expulsion, but not specifically sexual assault. Reporting was voluntary, and schools sometimes coded student sexual assault as "other-type not listed" behavior. Officials said they didn't believe their reported total of three incidents was accurate because Alaska's overall sexual assault rates were three times the national average. "This in no way represents the true extent to which sexual assault incidents lead to a discipline event in our public schools," Brian Laurent, the state's education data manager, told AP.

    ARIZONA

    Individual schools reported incidents of student sexual assault, defined as forced intercourse or oral sex. The education department provided an annual statewide total but masked the actual number of attacks annually when there were five or fewer, which applied to three of the four years in question. That made the reported statewide total between four and 20. In response to AP's queries, the state will review "the nature and reliability of the school safety data we collect," education spokesman Charles Tack said.

    ARKANSAS

    The state education department did not collect information on student sex assaults on school property. State law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System recorded 12 incidents of such assaults on school property for the two-year period. The law enforcement representation in NIBRS covered most of the state's population.

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    CALIFORNIA

    The state required every public school to report any offense by a student involving sexual assault or sexual battery, regardless of whether it led to suspension or expulsion. The state defined those offenses broadly to include any forcible oral, anal or vaginal penetration, lewd behavior with someone 15 or younger, and unwanted intimate touching through or under clothes for arousal or gratification. California reported 4,630 such student offenses over the four-year period.

    COLORADO

    The state education agency maintained no student sexual assault records over the four-year period; it began tracking incidents leading to suspension, expulsion or referrals to law enforcement only in the 2015-2016 academic year. But state law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System reported 350 incidents of student sexual assault on school property over the two most recently available years.

    CONNECTICUT

    School districts notified the state education department about incidents of sexual battery, including rape and forced fondling, that led to student suspensions and expulsions. The department masked district-level totals for any given year when there were five or fewer. During AP's four-year study period, the department reported 43 sexual batteries statewide that led to student discipline.

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    DELAWARE

    The state required schools to report student sex assaults to the state's education department and local law enforcement in real time. State education officials recorded only severe sex assaults, such as rape, in a category called "violent felonies" and said there was no way to distinguish student sex assaults from other offenses. Law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System recorded 70 incidents of student sexual assault on school property during the two most recently available years.

    DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

    The district's education department tracked incidents of school sex assaults by students, relying on the Metropolitan Police Department's determination of whether a reported incident constituted a forcible sexual act. Its four-year reported total was 26. Not included in the tally were charter schools, which serve about 40 percent of the district's students.

    FLORIDA

    Schools notified the state's education department annually of all incidents of student sexual battery, defined as attempted or actual penetration and, as of 2015, sexual assault, including threats of rape, fondling, indecent liberties, child molestation or sodomy. The actual number of attacks at an individual school or district was masked when there were fewer than 10 a year. Over the four-year period, the state reported 165 such incidents.

    GEORGIA

    Schools reported annually only those incidents of sexual battery that led to suspension, expulsion, corporal punishment or placement in an alternative education program. The education department defined such behavior as unwanted oral, anal or vaginal rape and forcible intimate touching. The state reported 607 such incidents in the four-year period.

    HAWAII

    The state tracked sexual assaults and sexual offenses by students, including acts such as forcible intercourse, oral sex and sexual fondling. It provided annual statewide totals under an official public information request and, over the four-year period, reported 784 such incidents.

    IDAHO

    The state education department kept no specific data on student sex assaults. Officials said such incidents most likely would have been reported as "violence with injury" or "violence without injury." None of the 108 state law enforcement agencies reporting to NIBRS during the two years most recently available used the codes that would denote cases specifically occurring at elementary and secondary schools.

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    ILLINOIS

    The state education department did not collect data on student sex assaults, though Chicago Public Schools kept its own citywide accounting. As of 2014, Illinois had only one law enforcement agency — the Rockford Police Department — participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System, and it recorded seven such incidents during the two years most recently available.

    INDIANA

    The state education department did not collect data on student sex assaults. The state police, the only law enforcement agency participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System, recorded just three incidents during the two years most recently available.

    IOWA

    The state education department did not track student sex assaults. None of the state's 232 law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System during the two years most recently available used the codes that identify cases at elementary and secondary schools.

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    KANSAS

    The state education department did not track student sex assaults. None of the 360 law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System during the two years most recently available used the codes that identify cases at elementary and secondary schools.

    KENTUCKY

    The state education department tracked only incidents of rape and sexual assault by students that resulted in discipline, such as suspensions or expulsions. It reported 187 incidents of sexual assault over the four-year period, but no rapes.

    LOUISIANA

    The state education department collected information from school districts on reported student rapes and sexual batteries and said there were 30 such incidents over the four-year period. The department has since stopped collecting that data, citing the expiration of a grant and a state law passed in 2014 that prohibits collection of student information on sexual or illegal behavior unless it is voluntarily disclosed by a parent or guardian.

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    MAINE

    The state education department said it tracked sexual harassment, but not specifically student sexual assaults. None of the 22 state law enforcement agencies that reported to the National Incident-Based Reporting System during the two years most recently available used the codes identifying cases at elementary and secondary schools.

    MARYLAND

    School districts reported incidents of sexual attacks by students that led to suspension or expulsion. Over the four-year period, the state reported 307 such incidents.

    MASSACHUSETTS

    The state education department tracked incidents of sexual assault, such as rape and forcible fondling, only when they resulted in student suspensions, expulsions or other discipline. It provided that information online by school name and, over the four-year period, reported 335 such incidents.

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    MICHIGAN

    School districts reported incidents of student sexual assault, such as rape, sodomy or fondling, only when they resulted in expulsions. For the four-year period, the state's Center for Educational Performance and Information reported 54 such cases.

    MINNESOTA

    The state education department tracked incidents of sexual assault by students but allowed districts to decide how to define that. In responding to AP's queries, officials learned that Minneapolis Public Schools had for years miscoded physical assaults as sexual assaults and vice versa. Officials said the district has since corrected its data and the state reported 441 incidents of sexual assault by students for the four-year period.

    MISSISSIPPI

    The state education department tracked incidents of student rape and sexual battery only when they led to suspension, referral to an alternative school or juvenile detention center, or corporal punishment. It masked the total for any given year when the number was 10 or fewer. That applies to rapes for two of the four years in AP's study period. As a result, the state's reported total was between 77 and 93.

    MISSOURI

    The state education department did not track sexual assault, though schools could report it when it led to student discipline under a category called "violent incident." Education officials said they had no way to discern the number of student sexual assaults from other violent incidents. State law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System recorded 21 incidents of sexual assault at elementary and secondary schools during the two years most recently available.

    MONTANA

    The state education department tracked incidents of student sexual battery, such as rape, forced fondling or sodomy, only when they resulted in discipline. It masked the total for any given year when the number was five or fewer, which it said occurred in two of the four years in AP's study period, making the state's reported total between 17 and 25.

    NEBRASKA

    The state education department did not collect information on sex assaults in its schools. However, Nebraska law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System reported 10 incidents of student sexual assault on school property in the period during the two years most recently available.

    NEVADA

    The education department did not track statewide totals on the number of student sex assaults in its elementary and secondary schools, nor did law enforcement agencies participate in the National Incident-Based Reporting System.

    NEW HAMPSHIRE

    The state education department collected information on aggravated felonious sex assaults in schools, but cannot distinguish whether the offender was a student. State law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System recorded 16 incidents of student sexual assault on school property during the two years most recently available.

    NEW JERSEY

    School districts reported all incidents of student sexual assault, defined as forced penetration, and other sex offenses, such as forced sexual contact or exposure meant to degrade someone. Individual schools reported twice a year to the state education department. The state conducted some "targeted" verification of the reports, which it said totaled 900 for the four-year period.

    NEW MEXICO

    The state education department tracked all incidents of student sexual battery that resulted in discipline, including such acts as rape, fondling, child molestation or sodomy. It reported a four-year statewide total of 228.

    NEW YORK

    The state education department tracked incidents involving three forms of forcible sexual contact by students: sexual penetration, with and without a weapon, and other types of inappropriate sexual contact with a weapon. It provides the number of incidents at each school upon request and reported 147 statewide over four years. Starting in 2017-2018, the state will group all sex incidents into one category.

    NORTH CAROLINA

    The state required schools to report student incidents of rape, including forced intercourse with an incapacitated person; sexual assault, forced or unwanted contact without penetration; and sexual offense, defined as penetration by an object or intimate touching with the male sex organ. The state education department reported 860 offenses over the four years.

    NORTH DAKOTA

    The state education department tracked two types of student sex assault: gross sexual imposition-rape, defined as compelling sex by threat of death, injury or kidnapping; and sexual imposition, defined as compelling a sexual act or contact by any threat. The department reported 43 such incidents statewide for the four-year period.

    OHIO

    The state education department did not collect information on sex assaults in schools. However, state law enforcement did participate in the National Incident-Based Reporting System and reported 293 sex assaults on school property during the two years most recently available.

    OKLAHOMA

    In the 2012-2013 academic year, the state education department began collecting information on student sexual assaults, but reporting was voluntary. From 2012-13 to 2014-15, only one incident was reported statewide. Spokeswoman Steffie Corcoran told AP any reported data was unreliable because it was not "certified." Districts could rely on criminal statutes or guidance from the National Center for Education Statistics, which defines "sexual battery (sexual assault)" as oral, anal, or vaginal penetration forcibly or against the person's will or where the victim is incapable of giving consent.

    OREGON

    The state education department tracked incidents of student "sexual battery (sexual assault)" only when they led to suspension, expulsion or removal to an alternative educational setting. It defined the offense as forced or unwanted penetration, including rape, fondling and sodomy. It masked totals of five or fewer in any given year, which it did for one of the four years of AP's study, making its reported statewide total between 25 and 29.

    PENNSYLVANIA

    School districts and charter schools had to report all incidents of student sexual assault, regardless of whether they resulted in discipline. The state required reporting on rape or statutory rape; sexual assault, including attempted rape or unwanted touching of a sex organ; involuntary sexual deviate intercourse; and aggravated indecent assault of someone impaired or younger than 13. It reported a statewide four-year total of 371.

    RHODE ISLAND

    School districts reported to the state education department incidents of student sex assault, including forcible sex, fondling, forced kissing and child molestation, only when they resulted in suspension. The department's reported statewide total was 28, but districts had been required to report sex assaults only since the 2012-2013 academic year.

    SOUTH CAROLINA

    The state education department tracked acts of student forcible sex offense only when they resulted in an out-of-school suspension or expulsion. The department reported a statewide total of 47 over four years.

    SOUTH DAKOTA

    The state education department tracked incidents of student sexual battery, including unwanted sexual contact, attempted and statutory rape and child molestation. If any year's total was fewer than 10, the state masked that year's actual numbers. It did so twice over the four-year period so that its reported statewide total was between two and 18.

    TENNESSEE

    The state education department tracked incidents of student sexual assault, including rape, sodomy, fondling and child molestation. It reported 462 such incidents during the four-year period.

    TEXAS

    The state education agency tracked only incidents of student sexual assault resulting in suspension, expulsion or referral to an alternative education program. Reportable acts included sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault against students or school visitors; indecency with a child or sexual contact with a student 16 or younger; and continuous sexual abuse of a child on school property, including school-related activities off property. The state masked actual counts less than five, which affected the count of continuous sex abuse cases during three of the four years, making its reported four-year total between 630 and 639.

    UTAH

    The state education department tracked incidents of student sexual assault, including rape, attempted rape or sodomy, and forcible fondling. The state reported 268 for the four-year period. Queries from AP prompted the state to review its reporting system; State Board of Education spokesman Mark Peterson said the board was working to address "discrepancies."

    VERMONT

    The state education department tracked all incidents of student sexual assault on school grounds or at a school-related activity. Education officials declined to share the information, saying it would have been masked anyway because the statewide annual total fell below the 11 or fewer threshold for withholding in each of the four years of AP's study. A January 2015 report by the education secretary put the number of sex assaults leading to student discipline at 11 between 2013 and 2015.

    VIRGINIA

    School districts had to report all incidents of sexual assault by students, regardless of whether they resulted in discipline. The state education department tracked four forms of sex assault: rape and attempted rape, sexual battery and aggravated sexual battery, and offensive sexual touching. In public reports starting in 2013-2014, actual numbers for any individual offense category were masked if they were fewer than 10. In response to an AP records request, Virginia reported 4,549 sexual assaults for the four-year period.

    WASHINGTON

    The state education department did not track student sexual assault. Washington law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System recorded 42 incidents during the two years most recently available.

    WEST VIRGINIA

    The state education department maintained data on incidents that led to student suspension, expulsion and referral to alternative education, but did not specifically track sexual assault. Schools could report student sexual assault as bullying, harassment or intimidation. None of the state's 245 law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System during the two most recent years available used the codes identifying cases at elementary and secondary schools.

    WISCONSIN

    The state education department did not track student sexual assaults. Wisconsin law enforcement agencies participating in the National Incident-Based Reporting System recorded 68 incidents during the two years most recently available.

    WYOMING

    School districts notified the state education department annually of incidents of student sexual battery, such as attempted or forced penetration or fondling. Wyoming masked statewide annual totals of 10 or fewer and did so three times over the four-year period, making its reported total between 13 and 40. Data collection director Susan Williams told AP, "We don't think it's super clean. Districts define and report incidents differently." Wyoming's education department stopped asking districts to report sex-related incidents in 2016.