In all the years that liberal politicians have been using Locke High School in South Central Los Angeles as a photo opportunity to show Americans they really care about poor kids in public schools, one key indicator has remained sky-high.
It's the school crime rate.
When Vice President Al Gore visited Locke before the 1996 election, he told the students: "This election is about you. Your future. Your prospects."
That school year, according to data published by the Los Angeles Unified School District Police, crimes connected to Locke (meaning they were committed against faculty or students at the school, adjacent to the school, at a school event, or in transit to or from the school) included 1 sex offense, 7 robberies, 14 weapons possessions, 30 property crimes, 24 batteries, and 7 assaults with a deadly weapon.
Tipper Gore visited Locke in April 1999 to promote a school jazz program.
That school year, the crimes connected to Locke included 2 sex offenses, 30 robberies, 17 weapons possessions, 50 property crimes, 39 batteries, and 27 assaults with a deadly weapon.
President Clinton visited Locke on a much touted summer "poverty" tour before the 1999-2000 school year. Democratic California Gov. Gray Davis joined him.
That school year, the crimes connected to Locke included 3 sex offenses, 13 robberies, 6 weapons possessions, 48 property crimes, 40 batteries, and 11 assaults with a deadly weapon.
In 2000-2001 at Locke, there were 13 sex offenses, 43 robberies, 2 weapons possessions, 57 batteries, and 19 assaults with a deadly weapon. In 2001-2002, there was 1 sex offense, 10 robberies, 31 property crimes, 19 batteries, and 3 assaults with a deadly weapon.
Statistics are not yet available for 2002-2003, but in April, the Los Angeles Times reported that a "melee" broke out during the lunch period at Locke. It involved as many as 300 students "with teenagers allegedly swinging pipes and bats at one another," reported the paper. School officials believe the report was exaggerated.
Still, you might have assumed that Locke was precisely the type of place Congress and President Bush had in mind for designation as a "persistently dangerous school" under the No Child Left Behind Act. This law, signed in 2002, required every state taking federal education money to write a rule for determining such schools. It required school districts to give all students enrolled in a "persistently dangerous school" the option of transferring to a safe public school in the same district.
The California Department of Education released its rule last month. Locke did not qualify as "persistently dangerous." Nor did any other California school.
How could this be?