MAPLEWOOD, NJ — The Student Safety Data System (SSDS) which tracks school incidents across the district showed a decrease in all categories except substance abuse in the 2019-2020 school year.

“Our greatest concern remains substance abuse and understanding the connections of substance abuse to other needs that our students may have,” said Superintendent Ronald Taylor.

Dr. Taylor presented the Annual SSDS report at the November meeting of the Board of Education. While the decline is in line with the districts recent trends, Dr. Taylor also pointed out that the last few months of the school year being completely virtual most likely impacted these numbers.

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The way that SSDS incidents are recorded has also not been uniform in past years leaving the district with data that cannot always be compared 1-to-1. In the future one of the district's steps of improvement will be to implement a standard system of reporting and recording incidents.

Though the district is taking these steps to more effectively collect data, virtual learning may still prove to be a significant barrier. Board member Mazzochi asked Dr. Taylor if he anticipated that the 2020-2021 school year could still produce incomplete data.

“Even in a virtual setting we have had HIB allegations and investigations launched, there are far fewer,” said Dr. Taylor. “We’re being as transparent as possible, that we’re not jumping around celebrating a reduction in incidents because the year was incomplete.”

The SSDS data which is reported by each individual school building to the state however did not align with the internal Harassment Intimidation Bullying (HIB) data that the district collects. Board President Maini pointed out that this has been a trend for the past few years that she believes needs to be rectified. Going forward Dr. Taylor agreed with board member Maini and added that it is not the district's goal to have zero HIB incidents but rather to have an accurate report so that all of the students involved can get the help they need.

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