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Schools Challenged by Substance Use, State Report Shows

Though Hillsborough schools are safer than most even in Somerset County, district is above others in substance use and weapons.

Hillsborough schools are far from being among the state's most violent districts, and are even quite safe compared to other Somerset County districts, according to the latest Violence and Vandalism in Schools report issued by the state.

In fact, even when compared only to Somerset County's larger districts, Hillsborough stacks up well in almost all areas except two: substance use and weapons.

The report totals incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse and violations of the new Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying Law for districts in New Jersey. For the 2012-2013 report issued Thursday, Hillsborough reported 15 incidents of violence, three incidents of vandalism and three involving weapons, 16 substance abuse incidents, and nine HIB cases for a total of 42 incident reports. 

When looked at as percentages of the totals for Somerset County, Hillsborough schools fare very well in the incidents of violence (with 13 percent of the total student population, the district had less than six percent of the violence reports), vandalism (4.28 percent of the county total) and HIB (3.48 percent).

Hillsborough reported three of the county's 34 total weapons incidents (8.82 percent), and 14.81 percent of the county's 108 substance abuse incidents.

When compared only to other township and larger districts in the county*, Hillsborough's share of reports for HIB and vandalism drop even lower (to 4.45 percent and 5.17 percent, respectively), and the share of incidents of weapons and substance abuse rises further—to 27 percent of the weapons reports and 19.5 percent of the substance reports.

The reports on weapons includes incidents of grade-schoolers with pocket knives—the report does not indicate a weapon was used; only in possession of a student.

And the district has been working to address the substance abuse issues, renewing the random drug testing at Hillsborough High School in response to ongoing concerns.  

*Methodology: The state report tallies school districts by county, so to get a better comparison, we deducted the figures for smaller and specialized districts. That left Bridgewater in comparison with schools in Bedminster, Bernards, Branchburg, Bridgewater-Raritan Regional, Franklin, Green Book, Montgomery, North Plainfield, Somerset Hills, Warren and Watchung Hills Regional. Not included were Bound Brook, South Bound Brook, Manville, Somerset County Educational Services, Somerset County Vo-Tech, Somerville and Watchung Borough.  

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