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12-6-13 Annual Report on School Bullying Released
Press of Atlantic City - School bullying drops 36%, state says

NJ Spotlight - In Second Year of Anti-Bullying Act, Reports Drop Sharply in NJ Schools…Latest data indicates fewer incidents of bullying and harassment, shows districts take different approaches to problems

Press of Atlantic City - School bullying drops 36%, state says

Posted: Friday, December 6, 2013 3:00 am By DIANE D'AMICO, Education Writer The Press of Atlantic City

Incidents of bullying in New Jersey public schools dropped 36 percent in 2012-13 according to the Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in the Schools Report issued Thursday by the state Department of Education.

But the reduction could be more about how districts report than whether there actually was less bullying.

State officials applauded the results, with Education Commissioner Chris Cerf saying that safe and secure environments are a crucial part of preparing students for college and careers.

Advocates for bullying prevention and positive school climate said the data alone do not really help parents know if local schools are safe for their children.

“The report is just a painful recurring indicator of the superficiality of how we address the problem,” said Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention. “It’s a law and order approach when it should be more about protecting children and creating a positive school climate.”

Green said the N.J. School Climate Survey developed last last year by the state Department of Education is a positive step to helping schools identify problems and create a positive climate. There is no data on how many schools have used the survey or developed school climate plans.

 The state did hold eight training sessions for school officials in 2012-13 on how to create a positive school climate, which were attended by 900 people. The state Regional Achievement Centers also had school climate specialists available to work with schools.

The total number of all incidences of violence, vandalism, substance abuse and bullying in public schools dropped almost 20 percent, from 26,139 in 2011-12 to 21,170 in 2012-13.

Almost all of decline is due to fewer bullying reports, although the report notes that the reduction in bullying could be attributed not to less bullying, but to a “clearer understanding of the criteria for reporting incidents of HIB (harassment, intimidation and bullying.)”

Statewide the number of bullying incidents dropped from 12,024 in 2011-12 to 7,740 in 2012-13. Almost 22,000 incidents were investigated.

school violence report

A separate state HIB reporting system noted 9,330 cases were affirmed, more than the 7,740 reported in the annual violence report, which may be due to district confusion about what to report. In 2011-12 there were 35,553 investigations.

About one in three incidents of bullying took place in a classroom. Almost 57 percent of all incidents were perpetrated by students in grades five through eight.

Locally, Galloway Township reported the largest number of HIB incidents with 57. Egg Harbor Township and Pleasantville each had 30 incidents. Vineland reported 53, Commercial Township had 45 and Millville had 28.

Galloway school superintendent Annette Giaquinto said she believes believes rigor in reporting is the reason their number is so high.

“We believe in complying fully with the letter and the spirit of the law,” she said in an email. “I must also add that our schools are safe, positive environments. This is based on my firsthand observations as well as feedback from staff, students, and parents.”

Vineland reported the most incidences of violence at 163, followed by Atlantic City with 84, Egg Harbor Township and Millville with 66 and Greater Egg Harbor Regional with 50.

Vineland also had high number of cases of substance abuse, with 59, followed by Atlantic City with 31, Egg Harbor Township with 28, and Mainland Regional with 23.

Several area districts reported no incidences of any kind, including Port Republic, Ventnor, Avalon, Cape May, Stone Harbor, Greenwich and Stow Creek Township. Linwood reported just one incidence of bullying and Margate and Dennis Township each reported just one incidence of violence.

Jonathan Cohen, president of the National School Climate Center said the state’s data report really doesn’t show whether students feel safe in school. He said school climate surveys nationally have consistently shown that parents and school staff always think students feel safer than the students themselves feel they are.

“That is the single most common finding,” Cohen said. He said creating a positive school climate is an ongoing social process with a support system in place for all students, and there is growing national appreciation that climate reform to prevent problems also creates a positive environment for learning.

“Just punishing the bully won’t make things better,” he said. “Bullying is not an individual act. There are always witnesses and bystanders. Effective prevention needs a culture of upstanders where everyone has responsiblities.”

Contact Diane D’Amico  609-272-7241  DDamico@pressofac.com


NJ Spotlight - In Second Year of Anti-Bullying Act, Reports Drop Sharply in NJ Schools…Latest data indicates fewer incidents of bullying and harassment, shows districts take different approaches to problems

John Mooney | December 6, 2013


New Jersey schools seem to still be searching for their equilibrium when it comes to bullying and harassment, according to the latest data. They also show a fairly wide range of responses to these incidents.

The state Department of Education released its latest school violence and vandalism data for the 2012-2013 school year, the second full year of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.

Interactive database: 2013 Violence, Vandalism, and Bullying Report

Tellingly, after a first year in which there was a 50 percent rise in the number of bullying cases reported and investigated by schools, the latest data shows nearly as much of a drop, with a 40 percent decrease in the number of investigations.

Overall, districts conducted 21,934 investigations this past year -- on average, close to 40 for every district. There were more than 35,500 investigations reported in 2011-2012, the law’s first year, almost double the number.

The Christie administration said the drop reflected the schools’ growing awareness of the issue and the introduction of programs to address bullying.

“We are pleased to see positive trends this year,” said state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf in releasing the data.

“Safe and secure learning environments are a crucial part of preparing kids for college and career, and we have invested significant time to provide support and coaching to districts to reduce incidents of bullying and other forms of violence,” he said. “We applaud all of our districts for working to create safer schools for our students.”

Others said the lower numbers could also be a natural swing after the big increase in the first year, with districts and maybe even families more reluctant to launch investigations into what are becoming high-profile events.

“Could there be a better understanding of the process, I think that is true,” said Joseph Ricca, a former East Hanover superintendent serving on the state’s anti-bullying advisory committee.

“But I do think there is a fair amount of under-reporting, and the drop may be not as much fewer incidents but more of them going underground,” said Ricca, now a superintendent in Elmsford, NY. “It is a very public issue now, and incidents can play out in the media. Who wants that scrutiny?”

Nonetheless, the latest report from the state provided some interesting data for the bullying picture in every district in the state, showing a range of reporting and results.

By and large, it found that the bulk of bullying cases -- roughly a third of them -- taking place in the classroom.

While online harassment may get most of the media attention nationwide, these incidents represented only about one in six cases. Instead, most were verbal insults or harassment.

Bullying also remains predominantly a middle school issue, with more than half of reported cases taking place in grades 5-8. And nearly half of the cases resulted in counseling with students, while a quarter brought in the parents for conferences, according to the state.



Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608