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Break-ins on rise in Clayton schools

Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley had some bad news to share with the public at Monday night’s school board meeting. Since the school year began, there has been a “rash” of break-ins at various county schools.

“[There’s] no reason for anyone to break into our schools, because they’re only stealing from our kids,” said Heatley. “And to me, this is the biggest crime that can ever be committed, because they are stealing from our kids.”

When asked which schools were being targeted, Heatley was adamant about not naming any specific schools, and wouldn’t say where the break-ins had occurred. His reason for that, he said, was because he did not want people in the community or in the schools to think the particular schools are easy targets.

He also said he didn’t have the reports in front of him, and couldn’t say how many break-ins had occurred, or how the number of incidents, this year, compare to last year.

“Yes, there are specific schools being targeted, but I’d rather not highlight them at this time,” he said.

School Board Chairperson Pam Adamson agreed with Heatley, and said that it is “devastating” that someone would break into schools and take items that hurt children. “So many times, [perpetrators] take things and sell them for $50 ––[items] that cost us $2,000 to replace,” said Adamson. “It’s not good to break into any place, but especially a school.”

Heatley added that –– according to police reports –– the individuals who are apparently committing these crimes, are not students, but people from the community. He said the specific items they are going after are technical equipment, such as laptop computers and projectors. He surmised that the state of the economy contributes to the numerous break-ins. “The way it is right now, we know that people are without work –– so we’re a target.”

On a brighter note, however, Heatley mentioned that a School Resource Officer from the Clayton County Sheriff’s Office caught an intruder in the act, and was able to recover the equipment that was taken. “I just thought the public needed to know, and there is a partnership with the community. We do take this seriously, and someone was caught in the act,” Heatley said.

In addition to SROs on duty, and community members who have reported suspicious behavior near schools, Heatley said the district has also been able to use a tracking number to recover a lot of stolen equipment.

He said the school system will also increase security at the schools, although he offered no specific plan. “We’re working with local law enforcement, as well as our own security measures, to make it harder for [people] to break-in,” he added. “We’re fighting hard to provide a 21st Century education, and these tools [the stolen equipment] help us do that. And we just hope people will understand that and call the school system [to report suspicious activity].”

In other business, board members voted to alter how the school system’s accreditation is considered, from being viewed on a school-by-school basis, to looking at the school district as a whole.

The reason for the change, said Adamson, is because, when under accreditation review, all the schools in the county can work together for the district’s accreditation, under this change, rather than each school doing its “own individual theme.”

“It’s a much more systemic approach to accreditation,” she said. When accreditation is school-by-school, each school has to have a team, she said, and that disrupts classroom instruction. “By doing the [whole] district,” she said, “each school will have an opportunity to have input in the district. [This] takes the pressure off the individual schools and puts more on the district’s office.”

The result, Adamson said, is when the district is being recognized as fully accredited, it will bring all the school’s together in the county, and ensure that everyone is on the same page.