TRENTON -The Department of Education’s Violence and Vandalism Report for the 2009-2011 school years shows increases in bullying, drug and alcohol use, and weapons-related offenses, while the number of incidents involving property damage and physical assaults has fallen.
On Friday, the Education Department released comparative data over the three-year period from 2008-09 through 2010-11:
Incidents of violence increased 5.6 percent over the three-year period, even though there were 276 fewer assaults (8 percent decrease). However, the number of harassment and bullying incidents increased by 566 from 2,846 in 2008-09 to 3,412 in 2010-11, a 19.9 percent hike. To address the growing bullying problem, the Legislature early this year passed the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.
The reported number of vandalism incidents declined by more than 30 percent over the three-year period: property damage (463 or 35.2 percent), fireworks (7 or 16.3 percent), theft (473 or 35.2 percent), and trespassing (59 or 45.4 percent). In addition the number of reported incidents of burglary declined from 63 reported in 2008-09 to 44 in 2010-11, a 30.2 percent change.
The number of weapons-related incidents rose by 248 or 25.1 percent, with incidents involving unidentified weapons (up 96 or 98 percent), knives (up 79 or 10.5 percent) and air guns (39 or 81.3 percent), seeing the sharpest increases.
The substance category saw a 37 percent increase, going up by 302 incidents, from 817 in 2008-09 to 1,119 in 2010-11. Marijuana makes up 69 percent of substance reports, while alcohol made up 14.8 percent of the cases.
“Though we cannot be certain whether the change in numbers reflects real increases or decreases in incidents or simply better reporting, we do know that the new statewide anti-bullying law has put a focus on violence and bullying in schools, which is leading to better identification and reporting from schools and districts,” Acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said in a statement. “As the law emphasizes, awareness is a necessary first step to taking the type of action that will create safer learning environments for children.”
A copy of the report can be found on DOE’s Web site at: http://observer-media.go-vip.net/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2011/12/vandv.pdf and summaries of district/school data can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/education/schools/vandv/index.html