FRANKLIN TOWNSHIP, NJ – The school district was ‘significantly’ safer for students during the first half of the school year, officials reported Thursday night.
School Management Director Orvyl Wilson told Board of Education members and the public that the number of both reported and confirmed Harassment Intimidation and Bullying incidents in the district dropped by about two-thirds compared to the same time period last year.
“(The report shows) a significant downward trend in all areas,” Wilson said.
Wilson gave the bi-annual, state mandated HIB report during the board’s meeting at the high school Thursday night.
While the overall number of Office Disciplinary Referrals (ODRs) showed an increase in both the high school and middle school, the actual number of both reported and confirmed HIB incidents dropped dramatically during the September-December period when compared to last year, he said.
According to the report, the district investigated a total of 39 HIB incidents between September and December this year, compared to 92 in 2015-16.
That number came down to only nine confirmed HIB incidents, compared to 27 last year, a decline of two-thirds.
Wilson said that not all incidents come under the HIB classification, but are specific attacks against “protected classes” of students.
The state mandated districts to develop HIB policies and set up a reporting system in 2012 following the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi in 2010.
Clementi jumped from the George Washington Bridge after he was secretly recorded having a sexual encounter with another male student in his dorm room at the New Brunswick school.
The decreasing trend continued in the district with other serious incidents that are reported to the state including, violence, vandalism, and drugs.
According to the report, the number of violent incidents dropped from 39 to 15 this year, vandalism went down from 18 to just five, weapons incidents dropped from 14 to only four and the number of incidents involving drugs decreased by more than half, from 28 in 2015-16 to 13 this year.
“It’s been frustrating the last several years,” resident Stu Schafer said during the public comment section of the meeting. “All I can say is ‘Wow!’ I don’t know what you are doing, but you should keep on doing it.”
The overall number of ODRs did increase at the high school and middle schools, Wilson said, mainly due to crackdowns on the use of cell phones and the district’s dress code enforcement.
He pointed out that, at most of the grade levels, 80-90 percent of the students did not have any ODRs at all.
At the high school, the number of ODRs increased from 711 last year to 838 this year with about 70 percent of those incidents taking place in the classroom, which is about the same as last year, the report showed.
The number of students cutting class, however, dropped year to year, from 42 percent in 2015-16 to 27 percent this year.
At the middle school and the Sampson Smith School, the number of ODRs went from 417 to 550 this year, according to the report.
The report showed an increase in incidents of physical aggression, from 18 percent last year to 29 percent this year, but also displayed a 32 percent decrease in disturbances on the bus compared to last year.
Wilson said the district used safety officers to randomly ride on some of the afternoon bus routes, which led to the decrease.
Elementary schools in the district showed a slight decline in the number of ODRs during the period, according to the report.