The total numbers of violence and vandalism incidents as of December 2012 was less than a third of what was reported as of December 2011, according to Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder.
Schilder gave his report Tuesday at the board of education meeting, providing information about incidents in the first half of the 2012-2013 school year.
“The harassment, intimidation, bullying numbers are way down this year,” he said. “I think that is largely due to our additional training that we received last year. And not all HIB incidents that are called in are HIB, but are code of conduct and do not show up on the report.”
Schilder said the new reporting standards determined that not all incidents are actually HIB.
“It doesn’t mean we’re not addressing things like simple teasing, but that doesn’t always qualify for HIB,” he said. “The Department of Education has also removed HIB from the violence category.”
For example, Schilder said, as of Dec. 22, 2011, there were 26 HIB confirmed cases. As of Dec. 22, 2012, he said, there were only five.
“That shows the difference between the HIB reporting, and numbers went down across the board,” he said.
As for the total number of violence and vandalism incidents, Schilder said, there were 58 as of Dec. 2011, and 17 for Dec. 2012.
“We have less incidents district-wide,” he said. “They are all down at the high and middle schools. The same trend is repeated in each building, and everything is pretty much the same.”
According to the report, for the first half of the 2012-2013 school year, there were five total incidents of violence, four of vandalism, three of substance abuse and five of HIB.
Of those, all of the substance abuse and violence incidents were reported at the high school. In terms of vandalism, three incidents were at the high school and one at the middle school.
Returning to the issue of HIB, Schilder said that for incidents to be considered HIB, they have to involve distinguishing characteristics or protective classes.
“Bullying or harassment has to be about a protected class,” he said. “They are race, color, religion, ancestry, origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental disability, physical disability and other, which gives us the most trouble.”
If the incident doesn’t fall into any of those categories, Schilder said, it becomes a code of conduct issue.
“If it doesn’t fall into one of those categories and it is teasing, maybe it is intense, but it is handled as code of conduct instead of bullying,” he said. “A student could be suspended for something that is not HIB, but is something else.”
For example, Schilder said, in a training session, there was a case of a student in a cafeteria who laughed and milk came out of his nose. The kids at the table teased him and called him “milk nose,” Schilder said, and it was determined to be a one-time incident.
“There was none of these distinguishing characteristics, and the students were called in and told to stop,” Schilder said. “It was not HIB, but if the child is still being called milk nose and it is being posted on Facebook and emailed around, then it crosses over into HIB.”
“What is the distinguishing characteristic there?” he added. “Physical.”
For this first reporting period, there were two incidents of HIB at Eisenhower Intermediate, and one each at Hamilton Primary, Crim Primary and the Bridgewater-Raritan High School.
Board of education member Jeffrey Brookner said he is pleased that the district still takes the time to issue consequences and deal with incidents even if they do not fall into the category of HIB.
“We impose the consequence and then say whether or not it was bullying,” he said. “The determination of whether it is bullying is done only for this stupid report. But I’m glad you take it seriously regardless.”