LIVINGSTON, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) requires all public schools in the state to conduct a Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) analysis. With incidents of bullying and its effects on the rise nationally, Livingston schools have made great efforts to focus attention on combatting this growing trend.
Keeping in step with the schools in its district, the Livingston Board of Education (LBOE) takes the NJDOE’s mandate seriously and ensures that it meets department’s requirement to report the results of each school’s self-assessment twice a year during its LBOE meetings.
In accordance with the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, each Livingston school undergoes an intensive self-assessment process, whereby they assign their school an overall score based on eight different areas, varying in point value. These areas include: HIB programs, approaches or other initiatives; training on the LBOE-approved HIP policy; other staff instruction and training programs; curriculum and instruction on HIB and related information and skills; HIB personnel; school-level HIB incident reporting procedures; HIB investigation procedures; and HIB reporting.
“You rate yourself on your programs, approaches and initiatives,” said Superintendent of Schools Christina Steffner in her presentation at Monday’s LBOE meeting. “Each school goes through the eight areas with a committee system and then gives themselves a score. All scores are then averaged to arrive at a total score for the district.”
During the self-assessment process, all schools remain cognizant of the fact that, if asked by the NJDOE, they should be prepared to justify their self-assessment score by supplying supporting evidence of why they ranked themselves the way they did.
The magic perfect score number is 78, according to the department. Steffner reported on Monday that scores for schools in the Livingston school district ranged from 73 to 78 for an average district score of 75.56.
“One of the things that’s very telling is that the schools didn’t score themselves perfectly, which speaks to the validity and value of the assessment,” she said.
According to Steffner, the goal is to identify areas where schools have not awarded themselves a perfect score and try to improve upon their current scores in each of the eight areas in which they gave themselves a 77 or lower. This involves looking at procedures and practices designed to eradicate harassment and intimidation and building stronger anti-bullying education and training programs that contribute to creating an inclusive culture and climate that supports relationship building between students as well as students and staff.
The conversations between principals and school safety teams are ongoing, throughout the school year, and focus on specific areas of improvement that need attention in addition to character education and social-emotional learning programs that may need to be brought into the schools to support the anti-bullying initiative.
“The idea is to look at all the schools and see where the holes are,” said Lisa Capone-Steiger, assistant superintendent. “It could be that one school didn’t do enough communication about anti-bullying whereas another school may not have done enough curricular work.”
In order to make sure “all the buildings are aligned,” Capone-Steiger concluded that the LBOE is collecting information across the district, as she said that each building has a different lens through which it makes the assessments.