by Patricia A. Miller
The Southern Regional school district fared better than Barnegat schools, in the state Department of Education's 2012-2013 Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in the Schools Report.
The report - released on Thursday - includes self-reported incidents from districts that include violence, vandalism, weapons offenses, substance abuse offenses, and harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB).
The 2012-2013 school year is the second full year of reporting HIB incidents in a second category, following the enactment of the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act in January 2011.
“We are pleased to see positive trends this year," DOE Commissioner Chris Cerf said. "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.”
The report included violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse and HIB incidents.
The Southern Regional school district includes the high school and middle schools. The Barnegat school district is a K-12 district and includes elementary schools.
Southern Regional has 2,984 students enrolled. The district had seven violence incidents, two vandalism incidents, 1 weapons incident, 11 substance abuse incidents and eight HIB incidents, for a total of 29 incidents.
Barnegat has an enrollment of 3,188 students. The district had 34 violence incidents, four vandalism incidents, one weapons incident, 9 substance abuse incidents and 10 HIB incidents, for a total of 57 incidents.
The Public School Safety Law, passed in 1982, requires the Commissioner of Education to file an annual report detailing the extent of violence and vandalism in the state’s public schools.
Districts are required to report incidents that occur on school grounds during school hours, on a school bus, or at school-sponsored events, according to the DOE.
School districts must report all incidents confirmed by the school board that that meet the definition of HIB, including those that occur off school grounds. They must report the number of HIB investigations conducted; the trainings provided to prevent and reduce incidents of HIB; and the programs designed to create school-wide conditions to prevent and address HIB.
The Violence and Vandalism Report also summarized two and three-year trends in the data.
The total number of incidents reported by districts statewide decreased by nearly 5,000 (19 percent) from 26,139 in 2011-12 to 21,170 in 2012-13.
The decline is due principally to districts reporting 4,284 (36 percent) fewer incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying in 2012-13 than the year before, the report states.Other key findings statewide include:
• Violence: Assaults, fights, robbery/extortion and sex offenses all declined between 10 and 15 percent while incidents of criminal threat, i.e., expressing the intent to commit aggravated assault (or similarly serious violent criminal offense), decreased by 106 (40 percent).
• Vandalism: Bomb threat, burglary, damage to property and theft offenses all showed moderate declines of 10 to 16 percent; while fire alarm offenses declined 44 percent.
• Weapons: The 1,048 incidents represent 5 percent of all incidents reported, with little change in any of the types of weapons involved, except knives, which showed a decrease over the three-year period of 14 percent.
• Substance Abuse: Use of substances decreased 6 percent to 2,500, possession
decreased 5 percent to 1,065, and the sale/distribution of substances
decreased 21 percent to 138. Marijuana continues to account for the
vast majority of the total number of substance incidents reported (69