District officials attribute an increase in incidents of violence and vandalism in its annual incident report to the natural spikes in incidents that occur year to year.
“Over the last couple of years, we have seen a more of a downward trend,” Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Scott Rocco, who gave the report, said. “We have been consistent in the past few years but now we are more focused on school safety.”
According to the report, the district saw its total incidents double from 36 in 2009-10 to 72 in 2010-11. Those totals include 37 incidents of violence in 2010-11, where 18 were seen the year prior, eight incidents of vandalism, where it saw six a year earlier, four incidents involving weapons where it saw two the year earlier, and 23 incidents of substance abuse where it saw 11 in 2009-10.
According to the report, the biggest increases in the violence category were in fighting and in harassment, intimidation and bullying. In 2009-10, the district saw two fights and eight incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying. Those numbers jumped to 13 fights and 18 incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying in 2010-11.
The weapons incidents seen in schools involved possession of either airsoft or other imitation guns or fishing knives, according to the district.
The drug incidents involve confirmed use, possession and distribution, though the district reports that several cases involved all three subcategories. The district’s highest totals in 2010-11 involved marijuana use and possession, with it recording 10 incidents of each. It also saw two confirmed incidents of alcohol use and one confirmed use of cocaine.
District-wide, the schools with the most recorded incidents were Hillsborough High School and Hillsborough Middle School, seeing 43 and 19 incidents in 2010-2011. Auten Road Intermediate School followed with seven incidents. Woods Road School was the only elementary school to report incidents, having three in 2010-2011.
Though the district saw increases in several areas, officials attribute the increases to natural fluctuations in the reports, noting that the district’s seen several higher-incident years in the past. In addition, the numbers reflect the district’s size—about 7,000 students.
“There is an ebb and flow to these numbers year after year,” Rocco said. “Our numbers in general are not high. We are a large school district in New Jersey.”
While Rocco could not identify a cause for the increase, he said that the incident reports would be reviewed and discussed to identify any areas for scrutiny.
“We are going to review the numbers and talk with the administration in each building,” Rocco said. “We’ll look at it and see if there’s anything we need to focus on.”
It’s also the last year the district will present a single violence, vandalism and bullying report. According to the state’s new Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying law, districts must now issues the reports twice a year beginning in Spring 2012.
The law also means an increased focus on bullying training for staff members, reflecting another requirement, Rocco said.
In addition to staff training, the district intends to continue its character education programs and conflict resolution goals, as well as holding its school and safety training with school staff and first responders, Rocco said.