A report released by New Jersey’s Department of Education heralded good news for parents and children in the state — the number of bullying incidents has declined 16 percent since last year.
The statement was part of the Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse Report for the current year and collated information from five major reporting categories, including vandalism and substance abuse. The report showed a total of 19,167 total incidents for all groups (a fall from 21,934 in the previous year), and a 9 percent decline from the previous year.
Acting Education Commissioner David C. Hespe expressed his support for the positive results:
“Our goal is to ensure that our children have a safe and supportive learning environment… “I’m pleased to see a decline in the number of incidents reported by school districts.”
The statistics have been recorded in the three years since the state’s anti-bullying law was been passed. The law has been attributed to the decreasing number of incidents reported by schools, which have been asked to thoroughly record and investigate every accusation. Since then, the number has dropped by 46 percent from 2011-2012.
However, the reasons for change still require further analysis. The sharp spike in bullying incidents reported in 2011-2012 (over 12,000) has been assumed to be due to misunderstanding regarding the implementation of the new law, with extensive training via local school policies and programs bringing the numbers to more accurate values over later years.
Department of Education spokesperson Michael Yaple communicated reservations with the statistics:
“Overall, there is some really good news in here… But this is a barometer reading, so at the end of the day school officials need to continue to take seriously the issue of violence and bullying and substance abuse.”
There has also been an increase in the number of anti-bullying initiatives offered to students and training of teachers to deal with bullying incidents.
Other cases such as substance abuse and assaults remained relatively constant, totaling an approximate 7,500 incidents. Most of them were due to fights, followed by weapon possession and substance abuse. The cases were also seen to be consistent with last year by showing a continued prevalence of bullying in the middle schools.
Students were most commonly bullied due to their race, sexual orientation gender, and physical characteristics. Bullying was typically dealt with by the district through parent-teacher conferences and formal counseling while more serious cases faced disciplinary actions such as suspensions from school and detentions. A very few number of HIB (harassment, intimidation and bullying) cases required reporting to the police.
The Department also announced the implementation of anti bullying grades analyzing school and district efforts to contain bullying within schools. The rating, consisting of a 40 page self assessment, can be viewed on the district’s website. New surveys have also been released to take into account feedback from students, parents, teachers and staff on issues such as school safety and morale code.