October 29, 2013 at 6:35 AM
MILLBURN, NJ - A total of eight incidents of violence and three incidents of vandalism occurred in the township's public schools from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year, compared to 18 violence incidents and four vandalism incidents for the similar time period last year, according to a report presented to the Millburn Township Board of Education by Superintendent of Schools James Crisfield on Monday.
The report for the first time, under state law, combines data included in the state's Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVVRS) and the Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying—Investigations, Trainings and Programs (HIB-ITP) Data Collection System.
In his report, Crisfield noted that this year saw three incidents of weapons possession and two incidents of substance abuse, compared to the similar period last year.
There were 38 HIB investigations this year and seven confirmed HIB incidents. The school district was not required to keep track of those statistics last year.
The superintendent of schools, in his report, also outlined the organization of the state-required school safety mechanisms throughout the district.
In response to a question from board member Lise Chapman he said there is a school safety team in each district education facility comprised of the school principal, the school safety officer and two other members—usually a parent, who does not get involved in confidential matters, and another member of the school staff.
Crisfield added that, in all grades, in either health or other classes students are made aware of the need for tolerance of those who are different than themselves, whether in terms or ethnicity or other reasons.
Responding to a question from Board President Jeffrey Waters about cyberbullying, the superintendent said a particular emphasis is placed on it by all school safety teams.
He noted that, while school officials have a right to investigate all specific instances of cyber threats or inappropriate language in cyberspace they generally do not address general threats. The yardstick, he said, is whether the threats make a student's attendance at school “unsafe or compromised.”
The district does follow its own procedures for dealing with incidents, whether the alleged perpetrators are teachers or students, Crisfield said.
Waters said he would like to pursue policy changes in the future to present a more vigorous response to such incidents.
When board member Michael Birnberg raised the fact that many of the school's athletic teams have codes of conduct which could have a student violating them thrown off a team, the superintendent said the school has the authority to pursue stronger measures and would not hesitate to use them if needed.
Resident and former board member Abby Kalan, however, cautioned that measures aimed at preventing bullying should not be misdirected.
Noting, prior to the state program, that her son had been corrected for drawing cartoon characters in class, Kalan said regulations and enforcement needed to recognize that “we all are human.”