New Jersey Schools Report Significant Decrease In Bullying

Good news for parents and kids in New Jersey: a recent report shows that bullying has been reduced considerably, which may be partly as a result of bullying prevention programs implemented in schools.

The State Department of Education recently reported that since the previous year, the number of incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying has dropped off by 36%. According to Dan Radel of Asbury Park Press, in the Schools Report, the drop amounts to 4,284 fewer cases of bullying as the Department of Education’s annual Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse states.

But state and school officials believe that the numbers may not be entirely reliable, as figures may also depend on student enrollment and differentiation in reporting by districts.

Each year, the report is produced to share self-reported incidents from districts including violence, vandalism, weapons offenses, substance offenses, and harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB). As the state suggests, bullying prevention programs in schools attributed to part of the decline, as well as the DOE workings with local districts over the past two years to provide a clearer understanding of the criteria for reporting incidents of HIB.

The Chief Academic Officer for Freehold Regional School District, Nicole Hazel, said she is suspicious of the numbers reported from around the state. For instance, her district saw 109 substance abuse incidents in 2012-13, the second highest number in New Jersey. However, with 11,447 students, Nicole noted that the district also is among the state’s largest districts.

“You have to compare apples to apples,” Nicole said.

Long Branch, which has over 5,000 students, is among the 300 schools which reported zero substance abuse cases in the past year.

“It’s all self reporting,” Nicole said. “And I get very skeptical when I start seeing zeros.”

However, this year, the department was pleased to see what it terms as “positive trends” as the State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf put it. Some of the trends cited by the state are:

  • The number of incidents reported in other categories decreased when compared to last year. Vandalism was down by 9%, violence 4%, weapons 7% and substance abuse 4%.
  • Between 10 and 15% was the decline for fights, assaults, sex offenses, and robbery/extortion. Meanwhile, criminal threat incidents such as expressing the intent to commit aggravated assault decreased by 106, or rather 40%.
  • 6% to 2500 was substance use decrease, substance possession decrease d by 5% to 1065 while substance distribution decreased by 21% to 138. Reported at 69% is marijuana use as it continues to account for the vast majority of the total number of substance incidents.
  • Moderate declines of 10 to 16% were shown by bomb threats, damage to property, theft offenses and burglary.  Meanwhile, a decline of 44% was shown by fire alarm offenses.