WESTFIELD, NJ – A total of 17 incidents have been reported on the Westfield Public School District’s Student Safety Data System report for the first four months of the academic year, the superintendent said this week.

The state-mandated report includes incidents of violence, vandalism, substances, weapons or HIB (harassment, intimidation or bullying) occurring in the town’s public schools Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018.

Superintendent Margaret Dolan detailed the report’s findings during Tuesday’s school board meeting. “Whenever one of our students misbehaves in certain ways, the state requires us to actually report that,” Dolan said.

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The number of incidents included on the most recent report from Sept. 1 to Dec. 31, 2018, compared with the same time period in 2017, are as follows:

  • Westfield High School 7 (vs. 5 in 2017)
  • Edison Intermediate School 5 (vs. 1 in 2017)
  • Roosevelt Intermediate School 3 (vs. 5 in 2017)
  • Franklin Elementary School 1 (vs. 0 in 2017)
  • Jefferson Elementary School 0 (vs. 0 in 2017)
  • McKinley Elementary School 1 (vs. 0 in 2017)
  • Tamaques Elementary School 0 (vs. 0 in 2017)
  • Washington Elementary School 0 (vs. 0 in 2017)
  • Lincoln Early Childhood Center 0 (vs. 0 in 2017)
  • Wilson Elementary School 0 (vs. 4 in 2017)

“Other incidents leading to removal” are also tallied in the report. These are situations that lead to the suspension of a student, such as disrespect to a teacher, Dolan said.

Five additional incidents were alleged but determined not to be cases of HIB, Dolan said. Two of these incidents were at Edison Intermediate School, two at Roosevelt Intermediate School and one at the Lincoln Early Childhood Center, according to the report.

While the report announced at the school board meeting, includes only figures, police and school officials had previously detailed some of the major incidents to the public.

Last October, a student admitted to etching a swastika into a bathroom panel at Franklin Elementary School, prompting community concern.

Authorities found graffiti at Edison Intermediate School in November. This graffiti, which included but was not limited to a swastika, targeted a number of groups, district officials then said.

Similar incidents have been reported in other New Jersey school districts.

In recent months, six hateful symbols were found in Summit schools. Hateful symbols have also been found at high schools in both Glen Rock and Scotch Plains, among others.

How the District Fosters Safety

In Westfield, Wilson Elementary School Principal Joseph Malanga serves as the district’s anti-bullying coordinator, Dolan said. In addition, each school has at least one anti-bullying specialist that works to address incidents as they are reported, she said.

“It is important that if any student or any parent is concerned and worried that there is harassment, intimidation, or bullying going on, these are key people that you can go to, to report that,” Dolan said.

Contact information for the anti-bullying specialists can be found on the district website. Dolan also outlined several pieces of training and programs the district has implemented to foster a safer school community.

These include school assemblies and professional development initiatives; the Upstander Award, which is awarded to students who stand up to bullies; and the Transition Project, which aims to ease the transition from middle school to high school for freshmen.

Dolan said the lessons taught through these programs are essential for students both in and out of the classroom.

“We keep on working at it, and we keep on trying to help students understand the appropriate ways to behave, both as students, and in their whole life going forward,” Dolan said.

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