DENVER - Desiree Richie's son was involved in several fights at Bruce Randolph School. Once, he even made another child bleed, she said.
But when she looks at the state-mandated safety and discipline report Denver Public Schools filed with the Colorado Department of Education for the past two years, it shows zero assaults at his school.
“I think all violence should be reported,” Richie said. “Because one lick could lead to somebody actually losing their life.”
A joint investigation by 7NEWS and The Denver Post uncovered inaccurate or misleading school violence reports are not uncommon -- and are part of a system plagued with loopholes, vague requirements, and lax oversight.
The weaknesses often make it impossible for parents like Richie to see a clear picture of what's really going on in Colorado schools.
Richie said her 12-year-old son, Diavian, faced constant bullying and torment at Bruce Randolph, and often fought back to defend himself. Behavior records from 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 show he was disciplined for physical fights on multiple occasions, which the school classified in categories including "Detrimental Behavior."
Richie said she believes the school should have reported to the state that it had assaults on campus.
That may be in part due to the method the state uses to calculate PDS. The Colorado Department of Education requires schools to report incidents in 12 categories ranging from "1st Degree Assaults” to “Other Violations of Code of Conduct," but fewer than half of those categories count towards the persistently dangerous designation.
An analysis of statewide data by the CALL7 Investigators found that if CDE instead counted the five categories listed as most severe in the department's own guidance to schools -- which includes the categories of “3rd Degree Assault” and “Dangerous Weapons” -- many schools would have significantly higher totals.
School districts are not held accountable for accurate reporting of crimes on campus because of lax oversight. CDE checks for dramatic changes in a school's reported numbers from year-to-year, and notifies schools when it finds them. But the department has never audited a school or district to ensure violence is correctly reported, essentially placing them on the honor system.
Martinez added that CDE staff is available to assist schools in determining how to classify incidents, but could not say how many times schools or districts have actually requested help. She said accurate reporting is the district's responsibility.
“It's really a local issue,” Martinez said. “Our role as a state is not to mobilize the action for the school districts.”
The Denver Post's Zahira Torres contributed to this report.
Contact CALL7 Investigator Keli Rabon by e-mail or on Twitter -- or join the conversation on our Facebook page -- if you know of a dangerous incident that appears to have been unreported or misreported.
On 7NEWS at 10 p.m. Monday, hear Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg's explanation of the discrepancies this investigation uncovered.