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VIOLENCE, VANDALISM AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE IN NEW JERSEY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2001-2002

The Commissioner’s Report to the Education Committees of the Senate and General Assembly

NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

June 2003

PTM 1503.77


Commissioner’s Report to the Education
Committees of the Senate and General Assembly
On Vandalism, Violence, and Substance Abuse
In the Public Schools of New Jersey
July 1, 2001 to June 30, 2002

Based on the Electronic Violence
and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS)

William L. Librera, Ed.D.
Commissioner

Prepared by staff of the
Division of Student Services
Isaac Bryant
Assistant Commissioner

Susan B. Martz, Director
Office of Program Support Services

New Jersey Department of Education
100 River View Plaza, P.O. Box 500
Trenton, NJ 08625-0500

June 2003
PTM 1503.77


Table of Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

A. Purpose of the Report

B. Legislative Charge

C. Meeting the Legislative Charge

Incident Definitions and Reporting Forms
Changes to Promote Consistency in Reporting

D. The Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System

Findings

A. Unduplicated Counts

B. Results by School Type

C. Header Information

D. Incident Frequency by Major Category

E. Incident Frequency by Type within Major Category

F. Cost of Vandalism

G. Disciplinary Actions Taken

H. Offenders and Victims

I. Data Summary

PROGRAMMATIC RESPONSE

A. Introduction

B. Addressing School Violence: Current State-Level Activity

  1. Administrative Code
  2. Core Curriculum Content Standards
  3. Student Discipline
  4. Intervention and Referral Services
  5. Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Exemplary Programs Showcase
  6. Character Education Initiative
  7. New Jersey Center for Character Education
  8. A Guide for the Development of a Districtwide School Safety Plan
  9. Violence Awareness Week
  10. Public Hearings on Violence and Vandalism
  11. Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying
  12. Safe Schools and Communities Violence Prevention and Response Pilot Plan Initiative
  13. Memorandum of Agreement
  14. Attorney General’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force Infrastructure Advisory Committee-School Sector
  15. Announcements Regarding Emergency and Crisis Management
  16. School Safety and Crisis Prevention and Response Conferences
  17. Youth Gang Prevention and Intervention Project
  18. Juvenile Offender Reentry Initiative
  19. Truancy Working Group
  20. Disaffected Youth Grant Program
  21. Children We Share: Partners in Student Discipline and Development, Phase I
  22. Student Support Services Planning and Development Project
  23. Peer-to-Peer Transitions Project
  24. New Jersey Student Health Survey
  25. Alternative Education
  26. V-Free Initiative
  27. Drug Abuse Education Fund Project
  28. Education Law Enforcement Partnerships Grant Program
  29. Violence Institute of New Jersey
  30. Collaboration with Mental Health Agencies and Student Support Personnel

C. Local School District Violence Prevention Efforts

Future Directions

A. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

B. Positive Student Discipline Reform Demonstration Project

C. Children We Share: Partners in Student Discipline and Development (Phase II)

D. Gang Prevention and Intervention Initiative

E. Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth

F. Technical Assistance

G. Collaborative Partnerships

Appendix A: Public School Safety Law

Appendix B: Data Forms

Appendix C: Weapons and Substance Detail

Appendix D: District Totals, by County

List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1: Incidents by School Type
Figure 2: Incidents by Major Category
Figure 3: Types of Vandalism Where Districts Incurred Cost
Figure 4: Suspensions by Duration
Figure 5: Placement of Students Removed or Suspended

Table 1: Location of Incidents
Table 2: Police Notification
Table 3: Incidents by Type
Table 4: Disciplinary Action Taken
Table 5: Offender Type
Table 6: Victim Type
Table 7: Number of Districts Using Selected Violence Prevention Curricula


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

The Commissioner of Education’s Report on Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in New Jersey Public Schools is submitted annually to the education committees of the Senate and Assembly of the New Jersey State Legislature. It provides the Legislature with data in four broad categories of incidents: violence, vandalism, weapons, and substance abuse. It also summarizes initiatives implemented by the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to assist schools in addressing problems of violence.

This year’s report is the third to provide data from an Internet-based incident reporting system, the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS). The total number of incidents reported by school districts in 2001-2002 was 22,744. This represents a decrease of nine percent compared to the prior year, 2000-2001. There were decreases in each of the four major categories of reporting:

  • the violence category (8 percent), driven primarily by a 22 percent reduction in the number of threats and an eight percent reduction in the number of fights reported;

  • the vandalism category (14 percent), producing the fewest number of incidents of vandalism ever recorded;

  • the weapons category (7 percent); and

  • the substance abuse category (6 percent) where moderate declines were seen in all three sub-categories (use, possession and sale/distribution).

More than two-thirds of all schools reported five or fewer total incidents in 2001-2002 – a slight increase from last year -- with more than three schools in eight (37 percent) reporting no incidents at all. The distribution of the location of incidents also mirrored that of 2000-2001 with nearly a third (31 percent) taking place in the classroom and another 20 percent in the school corridor. Bias was involved in fewer incidents this year; the total of 128 represents a decline of 26 percent from 2000-2001 following a decrease of 52 percent from the previous year, 1999-2000.

Again, out-of school suspension was the action taken most frequently in response to incidents (in 87 percent of cases). In 51 percent of the cases, suspensions of 1-4 days were given, with three days being used most frequently. Students with disabilities constitute a larger percentage of the known offenders (27 percent) than they do of the student population in general (16 percent). They constitute 19 percent of the victims in those cases where a victim was reported. School personnel were identified as victims in 24 percent of such cases.

The NJDOE has aggressively pursued a variety of strategies to address the problems of student disruption and violence since the inception of the Safe Schools Initiative. The NJDOE’s most recent efforts to strengthen its approach to reducing school violence and improving school safety cover a broad array of policies, programs and other strategic initiatives, including the following:

  • Development and dissemination of guidance documents, including: A Guide for the Development of a Districtwide School Safety Plan; Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services (developed in support of N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7); Curriculum Framework for Health and Physical Education; and Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying on School Property, at School-sponsored Functions and on School Busses (developed in support of N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.).

  • Support for new violence-related statutes, including the requirements for districts to conduct public hearings on all acts of violence and vandalism which occurred in the previous school year and to observe "School Violence Awareness Week," both to take place in the third week of October in each year;

  • The proposal of new regulations that impose a penalty on a school employee who knowingly falsifies a report of an incident of violence and vandalism, in accordance with the authorizing statute [N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46(1)]; the development and distribution for comment of a Student Discipline Code Discussion Paper; and the adoption of regulations in 2001 addressing school safety, violence and health services in the Chapter of administrative code, N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development;

  • The development of an Unsafe School Choice Option Policy, in accordance with the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001;

  • Implementation of the Safe Schools and Communities Violence Prevention and Response Pilot Plan Initiative; the Intervention and Referral Services Initiative; the Children We Share: Partners in Student Discipline and Development Project; the Youth Gang Prevention and Intervention Project; the Juvenile Offender Reentry Initiative; and the Character Education Initiative;

  • Collaborative initiatives, including: the Attorney General’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force Infrastructure Advisory Committee-School Sector; the consolidated New Jersey Student Health Survey developed in partnership with the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Law and Public Safety; co-sponsorship of the New Jersey Cares About Bullying Conference with the Department of Law and Public Safety; the Truancy Working Group composed of representatives from the Legislature, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Department of Human Services; the Peer-to-Peer Transitions Program in cooperation with the Department of Health and Senior Services; and ongoing collaboration with the Violence Institute of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), the Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies and the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists; and

  • Addressing the recommendations of the student discipline policy forums conducted in the fall of 2001: through the development of regulations, guidance documents and publications; provision of training and technical assistance; increased interagency and intra-agency collaboration; and convening an advisory panel to consider consistent uses of alternative education policies and programs for general education students who are suspended or expelled from school.

The NJDOE is committed to providing ongoing support for school district efforts to improve their comprehensive school safety programs and further reduce the levels of violence, vandalism and substance abuse in New Jersey schools. Continued refinement of the Internet-based reporting system and analysis of these data will assist local districts and the NJDOE to accurately track progress in making schools safe for all students and staff.


INTRODUCTION

A. Purpose of the Report

The Commissioner’s report is submitted annually to the education committees of the Senate and Assembly of the New Jersey State Legislature. It provides the Legislature with data in four broad categories of incidents: violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse. It also notifies the Legislature and the public of the actions taken by the Commissioner, State Board of Education and the Department of Education (NJDOE) to lead local efforts to establish and maintain safe and drug-free schools.

Since 1994 when the State Board of Education adopted a resolution supporting implementation of the Department of Education’s Safe Schools Initiative, the NJDOE has embarked on many actions designed to respond to the increase in school violence and disruption documented in the incident reporting system. Actions range from including this initiative in the NJDOE’s "Strategic Plan for Systemic Improvement of Education in New Jersey" (Goal 5: "To ensure that policies and programs promulgated by the State Board and the Department of Education will positively impact the health, social and emotional well being of all students, and to foster the delivery of state services which effectively address the needs of the whole child.") to developing grant programs aimed at preventing incidents of violence, weapons use and possession, vandalism, and substance abuse in our schools. In addition, the NJDOE continues to partner with other state entities to provide collaborative approaches to address these issues. The NJDOE’s recent actions under the Safe Schools Initiative are described in the Programmatic Response section of this report.

B. Legislative Charge

The Commissioner of Education shall each year submit a report to the Education Committees of the Senate and General Assembly detailing the extent of violence and vandalism in the public schools and making recommendations to alleviate the problem. (N.J.S.A. 18:53).

As indicated by the requirements of N.J.S.A. 18A:17 (see Appendix A), violence and vandalism in the schools have been an expressed concern of the state Legislature since 1978. Along with the requirement of a report by the Commissioner, the law requires that school staff who witness or who have knowledge of an incident of violence file a report of the incident with the school principal. That section of the law requiring the superintendent of the district to provide a summary of all such incidents annually to the local board of education was amended in January of 2002 to require that a public hearing be held in the third week of October, and that a transcript of the proceedings be submitted to the NJDOE. Thus the Legislature, in strengthening requirements on local reporting, is further focusing attention on the issue of school violence at the local level.

In 1984, the Commissioner of Education added substance abuse to the incident reporting system because of the seriousness of the problem of substance use in schools. In 1995, the weapons category was expanded to address new reporting requirements of the federal Gun-Free Schools Act.

C. Meeting the Legislative Charge

Incident Definitions and Reporting Forms

This year's report is the third to be based upon violence and vandalism data submitted through the Internet-based Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS). The EVVRS User Manual contains definitions and instructions for the reporting of incidents at the local level. The NJDOE provides districts with a three-page form that includes a page each for incident, offender and victim information. These pages mirror the image on the computer screen (see Appendix B). Incidents are recorded on the form at the school, and that record of the incident is entered on-line directly by school (or district) staff onto the EVVRS database resident at the NJDOE in Trenton. Use of a common form and clear definitions of incidents promotes uniformity in reporting.

Changes to Promote Consistency in Reporting

Over the years, the types of incidents reported and their definitions have been modified to bring greater clarity to the reporting process. In 1995, at the recommendation of a task force on school violence, the NJDOE convened a working group to review the reporting forms and instructions. Responding to the working group’s recommendations, NJDOE established a number of procedural changes in 1995-96. These changes included the simplification of the district summary reporting form, clarification of the definitions of each type of incident, and the production and distribution to districts of a videotape that explained how to use the new form and reinforced staff responsibility to report incidents to school officials. To further promote consistency of reporting across districts, the EVVRS User Manual included a broader definition of fight and clarifying language drawn principally from the juvenile justice system.

The NJDOE recognizes that the way in which districts interpret and apply the definitions in the manual varies greatly. That is, there are differences in local standards for reporting incidents. For example, given an altercation between two students, one district might identify it as a minor scuffle and not report it on the EVVRS while another may consider it a fight and report it. The NJDOE recognizes that this difference in perspective and over the past few years the NJDOE has promoted consistency in reporting by: conducting training for district staff; making access to definitions easier through revisions to the EVVRS User Manual; and expanding the Frequently Asked Questions document resident on the EVVRS homepage. Additionally, the NJDOE will strive to reduce the disparity among districts’ interpretation of incident definitions (i.e., in what to report), by developing "scenarios" of incidents for which districts might readily differ in their application of reporting standards. Fights, minor thefts, and weapons incidents will be described as well as the context in which they occurred. These scenarios will be distributed to all chief school administrators and made available through the EVVRS User Manual online.

In addition to this type of inter-district variability, the number of incidents for any one district may not match the total number of disciplinary actions taken by the district in response to student misconduct. For example, a district may report 15 fights during a year, but suspend 60 students for fighting. This difference is a result of the distinction between requirements for districts’ reporting to the NJDOE and to their local boards of education. Districts, as the law stipulates, must report all acts of violence and vandalism to the NJDOE. They are not required to report minor incidents, such as a shoving match between students, or minor acts of vandalism, such as petty theft. At the local level, however, each district has its own standards and procedures for reporting student behaviors that result in disciplinary actions. The NJDOE system of reporting is designed to capture the more serious types of incidents, whereas the local reporting systems may cover the entire range of student misconduct. Thus, differences between the totals for locally reported disciplinary actions and totals of incidents reported to the NJDOE are to be expected.

D. The Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System

The Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System, http://homeroom.state.nj.us (EVVRS), deployed in March 2000, allows districts to report data electronically. An EVVRS User Manual, accessible on the EVVRS homepage, contains definitions and general guidance for reporting.

Use of the EVVRS reduces administrative burden on districts because they no longer need to submit a separate federal Gun-Free Schools Act report and a school crime summary report, both of which required districts to disaggregate their data by elementary, middle and high school. Because the NJDOE can use the EVVRS to analyze individual student data, districts do not have to submit the report required by the United States Department of Education (USDOE) on the suspension or removal of students with disabilities. The EVVRS thus eases the end-of-the-year state and federal reporting responsibilities of districts, while making data entry as easy as possible. Within the EVVRS, districts may order local summary reports of data they have entered onto the system; reports arrive as an e-mail message within 24 hours.

District totals for the major reporting categories (violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse) appear in Appendix D. The summary of the data that follows includes comparisons to last year’s figures as data for both years are based on the same definitions of incidents and the same reporting system.


Findings

A. Unduplicated Counts

This report provides unduplicated counts of incidents for the total number of incidents and the total by major reporting category. Thus, the grand total of all incidents and the total for incident categories will not appear to add up. Prior to 1999-2000, the total number of incidents of violence, for example, was the sum of each type of violent incident, e.g., threat, simple assault. Beginning with the introduction of the EVVRS in 1999-2000, if a single incident included threat and simple assault, each type would be recorded and counted, but in deriving a total for the number of incidents of violence, the incident that included both a threat and a simple assault would be counted once. Similarly, in calculating an unduplicated total of the number of incidents, an incident that included a fight and damage to property would count as one incident (as well as one incident of violence and one incident of vandalism). A bias incident that included violence and vandalism would be counted as one bias incident. Thus, totals, as indicated, are unduplicated counts of the number of incidents within a category.

B. Results by School Type

This analysis examines differences in the number of incidents by the type (i.e., grade range) of the school. For the purposes of this analysis, an elementary school is defined as any school that ends at grade 6 or below; a middle school is any school that ends in the 7 through 9 grade range, and a high school is defined as any school that ends at grade 10 or above. Charter schools are included and are categorized in the same manner. Schools with only students with disabilities had no data on grade range available; type was determined by the modal age of their students. Adult evening high schools are included in the EVVRS. 1
________________________
1
Fewer than 100 incidents were reported by adult evening schools in 2001-2002.
________________________

Nearly half the incidents (49 percent) took place in high schools, a third (35 percent) occurred in middle schools and 15 percent in elementary schools. These proportions are very similar to those reported in 1999-2000 and 2000-2001. Figure 1 below shows that the number of incidents occurring in each type of school decreased in 2001-2002.

Figure 1: Incidents by School Type

Regarding the distribution of incidents across schools, three schools in eight (37 percent) reported no incidents. Including this group with no incidents, more than two-thirds of schools (69 percent) reported five or fewer incidents; this represents a small increase from the 66 percent figure of 2000-2001. Six to ten incidents occurred in nine percent of schools, 11-24 in 11 percent and 25 or more in 11 percent of all schools. Thus, more than ten incidents occurred in twenty-two percent of schools (n=556).

C. Header Information

Header information is the data that a district records for every incident and includes:

  • the date and time of the incident;

  • the location of the incident (optional field);

  • whether police were notified and if a complaint was filed; and

  • whether bias was involved.

The date and time data are primarily for local use and were not analyzed.

The distribution of data on the location of incidents is nearly identical to that reported for 2000-2001 (see Table 1). Three incidents in ten occurred in the classroom; overall, three in four occurred inside the school building, and one in four occurred outside. ______________________________________________________________________________

Table 1: Location of Incidents

  

2000-2001

2001-2002

# Incidents

% of Total # of Incidents

# Incidents

% of Total # of Incidents

Cafeteria

1,847

8%

1,719

8%

Classroom

7,153

32%

6,296

31%

Corridor

4,214

19%

4,060

20%

Other inside school

3,649

16%

3,345

16%

School grounds

3,049

13%

2,691

13%

Bus

894

4%

711

3%

Building exterior

433

2%

418

2%

Other outside

1,439

6%

1,196

6%

Total

22,678

100%

20,436

100%

Missing*

3,205

2,308

* Districts are not required to provide information on the location of incidents.

Police were notified in approximately one-third (32 percent) of all incidents reported by districts. Complaints were filed (either by the district, parent or student) in half the cases about which police were notified. The percentages in Table 2 (below) are nearly identical to last year’s.

___________________________________________________________________

Table 2: Police Notification

  

2000-2001

2001-2002

# Incidents Reported

% of Total # of Incidents Reported

# Incidents Reported

% of Total # of Incidents Reported

None

16,827

67%

15,394

68%

Notified, no complaint

3,975

16%

3,675

16%

Notified, complaint filed

4,170

17%

3,662

16%

Total

24,972

100%

22,731

100%

Missing

1

 

13

 

Districts reported 128 incidents of bias in the 2001 - 2002 school year, a decline of 26 percent from the total number of incidents of bias in 2000-2001. This follows a decrease of 52 percent last year from the total for 1999-2000.

D. Incident Frequency by Major Category

Figure 2 displays the total unduplicated count of incidents by each of the four major reporting categories for the past two years. Substantial decreases occurred in all four categories. The largest decline can be seen in the vandalism category (14 percent); violence dropped by eight percent, weapons by seven percent and substance abuse by six percent. The total of 4,216 for vandalism represents the lowest number of vandalism incidents ever reported.

Figure 2: Incidents by Major Category

E. Incident Frequency by Type within Major Category

The count of incidents by type is shown below in Table 3. An incident may be of more than one type, e.g., fight and damage to property, and therefore may appear in more than one category. The overall eight percent decrease in violence is indicated in the 22 percent decrease in threats, 8 percent decrease in the number of fights and 26 percent decrease in the number of robberies reported. There were far fewer incidents (14 percent decrease) in the two categories (combined) in which most incidents of vandalism occur, i.e., damage to property and theft. Together, all types of substance incidents decreased by seven percent. Marijuana was involved in 67.5 percent of substance cases, down slightly from 69 percent in 2000-2001 (see Appendix C).

Table 3: Incidents by Type

  2000-2001 # of Incidents

2001-2002
# of Incidents

Change
N %
Violence
Simple Assault

5,832

5,673

-159

-3%

Aggravated Assault

419

438

19

5%

Fight

6,193

5,702

-491

-8%

Gang Fight

49

53

4

8%

Robbery

66

49

-17

-26%

Extortion

29

27

-2

-7%

Sex Offense

399

396

-3

-1%

Threat

3,203

2,500

-703

-22%

Vandalism
Arson

160

148

-12

-8%

Bomb Threat1

266

194

-72

-27%

Burglary

159

185

26

16%

Damage to Property

2,378

2,140

-238

-10%

Fireworks

135

93

-42

-31%

Theft

1,784

1,449

-335

-19%

Trespassing

226

213

-13

-6%

Weapons
Firearm2

10

14

4

40%

Other Weapon

1,512

1,396

-116

-8%

Bomb Offense

1

2

1

100%

Substances
Use

2,140

2,036

-104

-5%

Possession

873

788

-85

-10%

Distribution

127

104

-23

-18%

1. For 2000-2001, the total of 266 includes six fake bombs; of the 2001-2002 total of 194, three were fake bombs.
2. Firearm incidents include handgun and rifle incidents only. Incidents involving air guns and imitation guns are classified as "Other Weapons," as federal law does not classify them as firearms.

F. Cost of Vandalism

An unduplicated total of 1,415 incidents of vandalism were recorded in which the district reported an incurred cost, a decline of 24 percent. The total cost to all districts was $771,605 a decline of 33 percent from 2000-2001. Property damage (65 percent) and theft (24 percent) accounted for most of the incidents resulting in costs to districts (see Figure 3). As multiple types of vandalism were involved in a few incidents, the total by type of vandalism in Figure 3 exceeds the unduplicated total of 1,415 incidents.

Figure 3: Types of Vandalism Where Districts Incurred Cost

G. Disciplinary Actions Taken

In the preponderance of cases (87%), students who committed an offense received an out-of-school suspension. Removal to an alternative program was used in three percent of cases. There was very little change in the distribution of actions taken from 2000-2001 (see Table 4).

Table 4: Disciplinary Action Taken

 

2000-2001

2001-2002

# of Actions Taken

% of Total # of Actions Taken

# of Actions Taken

% of Total # of Actions Taken

Expulsion

65

<1%

41

<1%

Removal

696

3%

551

2%

In-School Suspension

1,624

7%

1,414

6%

Out-of-School Suspension

20,326

85%

19,256

87%

Other

1,238

5%

993

4%

Total

23,949

100%

22,255

100%

Half of the out-of-school suspensions (51 percent) were for less than five days Eighteen percent were for 10 days or more. See Figure 4. The modal duration (i.e., most frequently used) was three days, which was used in 4,444 cases.

Figure 4: Suspensions by Duration

Of the 1,097 students placed in an alternative setting, 622 students were placed in an in-district alternative program or school and 364 were provided Home Instruction. Of the 111 students placed in an out-of-district program, 15 attended a county alternative education program. See Figure 5.

Figure 5: Placement of Students Removed or Suspended

H. Offenders and Victims

In 2001-2002, regular education students constituted nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of the offenders in the cases where the offender was known.2 Students with disabilities, who represent 16 percent of the student population, again constituted slightly more than one quarter (27 percent) of offenders. The distribution of offender types is nearly identical to that of 2000-2001. See Table 5.
_________________
2
In many cases of vandalism, particularly those of theft and damage to property, the offender is unknown to the district.
_________________

____________________________________________________________________

Table 5: Offender Type

 

2000-2001

2001-2002

# of Offenders

% of Total # of Offenders

# of Offenders

% of Total # of Offenders

Regular Education Student

15,689

72%

14,472

72%

Student with Disability

5,861

27%

5,519

27%

Student from Other District, Non-Student

194

1%

173

1%

Total

21,744

100%

20,164

100%

Note. Omits cases where offender is unknown.

More than half the victims (56 percent) were regular education students; their total of 4,451 represents a decrease of 22 percent from 2000-2001. One victim in five (19 percent) was a special education student (a figure close to their percentage in the school population (16 percent), and one-in-four victims (24 percent) was a staff member. See Table 6.

______________________________________________________________________________

Table 6: Victim Type

 

2000-2001

2001-2002

# of Victims

% of Total # of Victims

# of Victims

% of Total # of Victims

Regular Education Student

5,819

60%

4,541

56%

Student with Disability

1,863

19%

1,497

19%

Student from Other District, Non-Student

127

1%

115

1%

School Personnel

1,810

19%

1,923

24%

Total

9,619

100%

8,076

100%

I. Data Summary

The total number of incidents of 22,744 represents a decrease of nine percent compared to the total of 24,973 reported in 2000-2001. There were decreases in all four major categories of reporting. The largest percentage decrease occurred in the vandalism category (14 percent), with the number of thefts decreasing by 19 percent and incidents of property damage by 10 percent. The largest decline in the number of incidents occurred in the violence category (1,293 fewer incidents) where there were fewer fights (eight percent) and threats of violence (22 percent). Incidents of substance abuse decreased by six percent with all three types of incidents (use, possession, and distribution) decreasing. The number of weapons incidents decreased by seven percent.

When one examines the distribution of incidents between types of schools and other information that describe the incidents, a rather remarkable consistency between this reporting year and last is evident, and in some cases across the three years of reporting through the EVVRS. In the selected incident-related data summarized below, the percentages of any one reporting category changed no more than one to three percentage points – in some cases there was no change. That is, this summary is based on 2001-2002 data, yet the descriptions pertain, with little variation, to all three years violence and vandalism data that have been reported using the EVVRS. The total number of incidents, overall, by category (e.g., violence, vandalism) and by type (e.g., fight, theft) reported has varied over the three years, but certain characteristics of these incidents are relatively constant, year to year.

  • Type of school. Half of all incidents take place at the high school, with slightly more than a third occurring at middle schools.

  • Distribution among schools. More than two-thirds of all schools reported five or fewer incidents, with more than one-third reporting no incidents at all.

  • Location. Three incidents in four (75 percent) take place inside the school with nearly a third taking place in the classroom.

  • Police notification. Police are notified in one third of all cases, with a complaint being filed in half of those cases (16 percent overall);

  • Disciplinary Action Taken. Out-of-school suspension is the action taken in response to incidents in seven cases out of eight.

  • Offenders. Students with disabilities constitute a larger percentage of the known offenders (27 percent) than they do of the student population in general (16 percent).

One change in the data that is a concern to the NJDOE is the number of school personnel who were victims of violence, vandalism and weapons offenses. School personnel (including contracted services providers such as some school bus drivers) were identified as victim in over 1,900 cases. The NJDOE will examine the data further to determine which districts appear to be experiencing this problem, and consider types of assistance that might be provided.

Overall, the successful implementation of the EVVRS in a third year of operation indicates that districts are becoming acclimated to reporting individual incident, offender and victim data over the Internet. An enhanced User Manual, training and the use of the e-mail technical support system will continue to influence positively the reliability of the data. Additionally, the development of scenarios, i.e., descriptions of incidents difficult to classify as serious enough to report on the EVVRS, will assist districts as they strive for consistency in reporting.

The NJDOE recognizes that interdistrict variation in standards of reporting incidents, (that is, a district’s determination of how serious an incident must be before it is reported to the NJDOE through the EVVRS) will continue even as the NJDOE tries to bring uniformity to the reporting process. Because of this variation, it is inappropriate to compare data between or among districts. The value of the analysis of the violence, vandalism and substance abuse data reported through the EVVRS rests with the year-to-year consistency within districts as they interpret state guidelines/definitions for reporting. Use of these data, in conjunction with information on student conduct, will enable districts to gauge the success of their prevention programs and their intervention strategies that address identified problems and patterns. It also enables the state to report trend data and gauge progress in its efforts to assist districts in creating safe learning environments for all students.


PROGRAMMATIC RESPONSE

A. Introduction

Types and degrees of school violence should be viewed as various points on a continuum. At one end of the continuum is the bullying or shoving-match behavior between fellow students that must be curtailed before it escalates into something more serious. At the extreme end are fatal incidences, such as the terrible tragedies that have occurred in our nation’s schools, including Littleton, Colorado in 1999, as well as the threat to our homeland security with the events of September 11, 2001. The occurrence of these incidences and the frequent security alerts instill fear in the minds of students and parents and can create the impression that violence is rampant and that our schools are being threatened.

Despite these perceptions, New Jersey’s schools are basically safe places, with school districts and the state implementing programmatic responses to foster school safety at all points of the continuum. Comprehensive responses include the following: developing clearly defined student behavior policies and codes of student conduct; assessing the immediate surroundings of the school community; developing an emergency operations plan, with clearly defined policies and procedures; establishing a plan to address a crisis, both internal and external; and planning for the effective use of available community resources.

The capacity for local response is supplemented by federal funding provided specifically for school violence and substance abuse prevention activities. Under the federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) program, $7.6 million dollars was provided through the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to local districts for this purpose in 2001-2002 and again in 2002-2003. Data on programs reported to the NJDOE by districts indicate that educators have matched the types of violence with appropriately designed plans and programs. They have put in place emergency management plans and have purchased security devices to provide a surveillance capacity to protect against intruders. They also have put in place specific programs to enhance their ability to intervene early when students are disruptive. For example, in the 2001-2002 school year, 353 school districts reported implementing conflict resolution programs and 266 districts reported delivering violence prevention instruction using SDFSCA funds. Additional violence-related activity funded under SDFSCA included the purchase of security equipment (27 districts) the use of security personnel (18 districts) and illegal gang prevention activities (35 districts).

Districts supplement this federal support with local funds. While no state funds are specifically targeted to all school districts for violence or substance abuse prevention, state funds have been appropriated to support the following related initiatives:

  • Character Education Initiative ($4.75 million);

  • Drug Abuse Education Fund ($250,000); and

  • Safe Schools and Communities Violence Prevention and Response Plan Initiative ($150,000).

In addition, legislation has been passed to require school districts to adopt harassment, intimidation and bullying prevention policies (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.); strengthen school reporting requirements for incidents of violence and vandalism (N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46 et seq.); and to designate "School Violence Awareness Week" in New Jersey schools (N.J.S.A. 18A:36-5.1).

B. Addressing School Violence: Current State-Level Activity

The NJDOE has aggressively pursued a variety of policy and program strategies to address the problem of disruption and violence since the beginning of the Safe Schools Initiative in 1994. The following is a summary of the department's most recent efforts to strengthen the assistance offered to school districts to increase school safety and reduce school violence:

1. Administrative Code

The State Board of Education approved a new Chapter of administrative code titled Programs to Support Student Development (N.J.A.C. 6A:16) in April 2001. The new Chapter includes new subchapters that address school safety issues, including:

  • Codes of student conduct;

  • Emergency and crisis management plans;

  • Incident reporting;

  • Access to juvenile information;

  • Firearms, weapons and assaults offenses; and

  • Law enforcement operations for substances, weapons and safety.

The regulations also contain subchapters on comprehensive substance abuse programs, substance abuse intervention, reporting allegations of child abuse and neglect, intervention and referral services, alternative education, home or out-of-school instruction for general education students and school health services.

2. Core Curriculum Content Standards

The Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education contain specific indicators under Standards 2.1 (health promotion and disease prevention concepts and skills) and 2.2 (health enhancing personal, interpersonal and life skills) that require public schools to teach violence prevention skills including media resistance, peer pressure resistance, peer leadership, problem-solving, conflict resolution and stress management. These standards were further refined by a standards revision panel during 2001 to provide progress indicators at grades two, four, six, eight, and twelve. The proposed revisions were disseminated for public comment in January 2002. The Curriculum Framework for Health and Physical Education was disseminated in October 1999 to all schools and includes 140 suggested sample lessons for educators to use to address topics related to violence prevention and positive social development. In a survey conducted in 2000 of all New Jersey public schools enrolling students in grades 6-12, health teachers report that schools were teaching the following: violence prevention knowledge (87%); stress management (89%); conflict resolution (92%); and resisting peer pressure (99%).

3. Student Discipline

A working group has been established within the NJDOE to review student discipline in response to issues that were raised during the public comments on N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development. A major activity of the working group was the administration of nine policy forums in the fall of 2001 that were designed to engage representatives from statewide education associations and constituency groups in identifying a broad rage of student discipline concerns and possible remedies for department consideration.

The report titled Final Report and Recommendations on Student Discipline for Consideration by the New Jersey Department of Education summarizes the outcomes of the policy forums and is available on the NJDOE website at http://www.state.nj.us/njded/code/title6a/chap29/discipline.

The following recommendations have been or are in the process of being implemented:

  • Development of a regulatory framework for student discipline – In response to this recommendation, a Student Discipline Code Discussion paper was approved by the State Board of Education for dissemination and comment. The paper can be found at the following web site: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/code/title6a/chap29.

  • Convening an advisory panel to explore consistent uses of programs and policies regarding alternative education for general education students who are suspended or expelled from school. As a result of this recommendation, the NJDOE convened the advisory panel, and the findings of the panel are under consideration by the department’s internal working group on student discipline.

The NJDOE is considering implementation of the remaining recommendations from the student discipline policy forums, which include the following activities:

  • Development or revision of guidance documents and publications (to be completed subsequent to the adoption of regulations on student discipline).

  • Provision of training and technical assistance (to be completed subsequent to the adoption of regulations on student discipline).

  • Increased interagency and intra-agency collaboration (ongoing).

4. Intervention and Referral Services

The Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) Initiative supports implementation of the I&RS regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7) by providing technical assistance to districts for the establishment of building-based (grades K-12) multidisciplinary problem-solving teams that are designed to assist students who are experiencing learning, behavior or health difficulties and to assist staff who have difficulties in addressing students’ learning, behavior or health needs. The technical assistance provided by NJDOE includes a four-part videotape series and accompanying companion guide and flyer; a comprehensive Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services; and the provision of training to prepare building administrators and building-based teams to implement the I&RS regulations. The videotapes were disseminated to all school districts in June 1999 and the original Resource Manual, which was distributed to districts in February 2000, has been updated to reflect the provisions of the new regulations and was forwarded to schools in January 2003. Approximately 300 building-based teams have been trained since April 2000. In addition to providing annual team training, supplemental training programs will be offered that are specifically designed to address the ongoing professional development needs identified by members of trained teams.

5. Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Exemplary Programs Showcase

One of the responsibilities of administering the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) funds is to support the requirement for school districts to adopt programs based on scientifically based research, as a way of implementing the Principles of Effectiveness that schools are required to use as the basis for the planning and selecting programs funded under SDFSCA. In May 2003, the NJDOE held a statewide conference for developers of programs designated as exemplary by the United States Department of Education to showcase their programs to New Jersey educators. The presentations and conference proceedings were videotaped and copies will be made available to all New Jersey school districts.

6. Character Education Initiative

New Jersey was the first state in the nation to provide state aid funding for the purpose of implementing Character Education programs and services through the New Jersey Character Education Partnership (NJCEP) initiative. For the second year (2001-02) of the initiative, the Governor’s FY2002 budget provided $4.75 million for school district character education program implementation and expansion. The purpose of NJCEP is to assist public school educators to adopt validated Character Education programs that will meet the developmental needs of students throughout New Jersey by promoting pro-social student behaviors and creating a caring, disciplined school climate conducive to learning. While no government funding for this purpose could be directed to nonpublic schools, nonpublic school educators have been able to share in the professional development and networking activities and other educational resources provided by the NJCEP. During the 2001-2002 school year, 98% of the public school districts participated in the character education initiative. Those public school districts that participated during the 2000-2001 submitted data along with a narrative on program outcomes. The Report on Year One Outcomes is available at http://www.nj.gov/njded/chared/outcomes.

In February 27, 2002, Governor James E. McGreevey established the New Jersey Character Education Commission by Executive Order #9. The Governor charged the Commission to address the State of New Jersey’s compelling interest in helping schools teach students the importance of good character traits such as integrity, fairness, respect and citizenship; create classroom environments that encourage students to respect one another while promoting effective learning; and teach students how to resolve conflicts without resorting to intimidation or violence. The Commission conducted public meetings in May and June of 2002 to gather current information on Character Education activities in New Jersey and to hear directly from New Jersey citizens regarding their views on the state’s role in promoting Character Education. In September 2002, the Commission submitted a report with recommendations and findings to the Governor.

7. New Jersey Center for Character Education

New Jersey is one of only five states to receive a federal grant award under the Partnerships in Character Education grant program (Title V, Part D of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001). Under this grant, New Jersey has created the New Jersey Center for Character Education (NJCCE), housed at the Center for Applied Psychology in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University. The NJCCE has been established to help the NJDOE achieve one of the objectives in Governor James E. McGreevey’s 21-point education reform plan for New Jersey: To develop new initiatives to improve character education in our schools to help our children become productive, informed and actively involved citizens.

In-depth technical assistance and support in program evaluation, professional development and skills enhancement will be offered to all public and nonpublic school districts in New Jersey. The guidance provided by the NJCCE will help schools adopt programs and strategies that have been proven to be effective.

Under the grant, the NJDOE also has identified ten collaborating partner LEAs as best practice demonstration sites to participate in intensive program development, program evaluation, professional development and dissemination activities. The demonstration sites represent the diversity of New Jersey’s schools and their experiences with school reform efforts. Three of the participating LEAs are the state operated districts (Newark, Jersey City and Paterson). The remaining seven LEAs (Woodbridge Township, Westwood Regional, Cape May County Special Services, Hunterdon Central Regional, Cherry Hill, Monroe Township and Highland Park) were selected as a result of a competitive application process. Additionally, the NJDOE has convened an expert panel to assist in the planning and development of a four-year evaluation plan for the program. The expert panel will also provide recommendations to the collaborating LEAs regarding the most effective strategies for conducting research and implementing scientifically based program strategies.

8. A Guide for the Development of a Districtwide School Safety Plan

In November 2001 the NJDOE, in support of the Strategic Plan for Systemic Improvement of Education in New Jersey established by the State Board of Education, developed and disseminated A Guide for the Development of a Districtwide School Safety Plan. The purpose of the Guide is to provide New Jersey schools with background information for addressing school safety in a comprehensive manner.

The Guide provides school staff with a general framework for planning and an inventory of supportive resources for the development of comprehensive school safety plans and programs designed to effect positive behavior in schools in order to ensure safe school climates. It describes a continuum of strategies and activities that are vital to the establishment of safe and secure educational environments, ranging from the physical makeup of school buildings, to prevention and intervention programs and services, to community involvement, to responding to the aftermath of a crisis. The publication was distributed to all county superintendents and is also posted at the following website: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/educators/school_safety_man.

9. Violence Awareness Week

In January 2002, a state law (N.J.S.A. 18A:36-5.1) was passed designating the third week of October each year as "School Violence Awareness Week." During this week, school districts are required to organize activities, such as age-appropriate forums for student discussions on conflict resolution, issues of student diversity and tolerance. The NJDOE has provided guidelines and information to local boards of education for use in planning the activities in observance of the week.

10. Public Hearings on Violence and Vandalism

In January 2002, a state law (N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46 et seq.) was passed requiring school employees to file reports describing all incidents of violence and vandalism, and requiring districts to conduct public hearings on all acts of violence and vandalism which occurred in the previous school year. In compliance with an additional provision of the law, the NJDOE has proposed new regulations that impose a penalty on a school employee who knowingly falsifies a report of an incident of violence and vandalism.

11. Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

Legislation (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.) enacted in September 2002 requires each school district to adopt by September 1, 2003, a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying on school property, at school-sponsored functions and on school busses. To assist school districts in developing these policies, the legislation also required the NJDOE to develop and issue a model policy applicable to grades kindergarten through twelve. The model policy can be found at the following web site: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/parents/bully. In addition, the NJDOE co-sponsored the New Jersey Cares About Bullying Conference with the Department of Law and Public Safety in March 2003.

12. Safe Schools and Communities Violence Prevention and Response Pilot Plan Initiative

The NJDOE awarded a grant to The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to implement an eighteen-month pilot program in the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 school years in which grant program staff collaborated with three school districts in Atlantic County, as well as community-based organizations and stakeholders, to develop effective violence prevention, intervention and postvention plans. One outcome of the pilot program will be a report prepared for dissemination to all school districts. The report will provide guidance on the processes and strategies developed under the pilot program, and current information on effective school responses to violence and the management of crises.

13 Memorandum of Agreement

The Attorney General and the Commissioner of Education in 1999 issued a revised Uniform State Memorandum of Agreement between Education and Law Enforcement Officials. Sections on weapons offenses, bias crimes and sexual harassment have been included in the revised memorandum. Requirements for the memorandum are set forth in the new subchapter of administrative code, Law Enforcement Operations for Substances, Weapons and Safety (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-6). The memorandum, which is reviewed and signed annually by local education and law enforcement officials, forms the basis for sharing information between education and law enforcement representatives and sets parameters for law enforcement investigations. The Attorney General’s Education-Law Enforcement Working Group intends to revise the memorandum to make it consistent with new statutes and regulations and to clarify and update issues and procedures, as appropriate.

14. Attorney General’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force Infrastructure Advisory Committee-School Sector

In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Governor McGreevey created the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, which is chaired by the Attorney General’s office and includes representatives from all state agencies. As a result of task force planning, a committee has been formed to specifically address the unique needs of schools for responding to potential attacks and threats. The school committee will make recommendations to be considered for implementation in the 2003-2004 school year.

15. Announcements Regarding Emergency and Crisis Management

Two announcements have been sent to school districts, charter schools, private and parochial schools and pre-school/child care providers regarding the management of potential attacks or threats. The March 18, 2003 release, found at http://www.state.nj.us/njded/news/0307kean.htm, provided information on the regulations for emergency and crisis management plans (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.2), available resources and a summary of future plans.  The March 20, 2003 correspondence was posted on the web (http://www.state.nj.us/njded/news/0320emg.htm)  and sent to schools. It provides a checklist for use by schools that emphasizes the importance of coordinating with local and county emergency management coordinators and government and local law enforcement officials regarding emergencies, as well as a question and answer section.

16. School Safety and Crisis Prevention and Response Conferences

The NJDOE, in conjunction with the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, conducted two regional conferences in the spring of 2002 designed to provide educators with state-of-the-art information on school safety and crisis prevention and response.

17. Youth Gang Prevention and Intervention Project

Under a memorandum of understanding between the NJDOE and the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC), the following gang-related programs and services were provided in 2002: gang prevention and education to youth who have been committed to JJC and are at high-risk for involvement in gang activity; information about gang activities to community members and organizations statewide; and professional development programs on gang issues.

18. Juvenile Offender Reentry Initiative

Under a memorandum of understanding between the NJDOE and the New Jersey State Parole Board, serious and violent juvenile offender populations in Camden and Essex counties were provided with alternative education opportunities in the 2002-2003 school year to support their transitions from adjudicated placements to their home communities.

19. Truancy Working Group

A working group composed of representatives from the Legislature, the NJDOE, the Administrative Office of the Courts and the Department of Human Services has been formed to make recommendations regarding practices for addressing truancy issues on the parts of schools, courts and human service agencies. A truancy survey was administered to a sample of school districts in the spring of 2003 to collect information on existing practices in responding to student truancy. Recommendations regarding survey findings will be considered by the working group and its constituent agencies for action in the 2003-2004 school year.

20. Disaffected Youth Grant Program

The goal of this program is to help school-age children and adolescents who are at risk for involvement in the juvenile justice system remain in school or return to school and to achieve the Core Curriculum Content Standards. The program is designed to address the identified academic and nonacademic needs of the at-risk youth and their families in targeted school districts.

21. Children We Share: Partners in Student Discipline and Development (Phase I)

Under this project, assistance was provided to schools through a collaborative effort among NJDOE and The College of New Jersey, with support provided by the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, to effectively engage parents and families in promoting positive youth development, with particular attention given to discipline issues. The project included the development of a guidebook, a videotape program and a program in CD-ROM format to provide relevant research, strategies and materials to use with parents in promoting positive youth development, and the provision of a principals institute supporting use of the materials developed under the project.

22. Student Support Services Planning and Development Project

Under this project, supportive services are being provided to 10 school districts interested in refining or reforming their student services programs. A contract has been awarded to MGT of America to provide technical support services to participating districts to assist them in evaluating existing student support services, assessing the support needs of students and designing and implementing the optimum configuration and systems for delivering and sustaining student support services for their school populations. The foundation of the project is the self-study undertaken by each district, which encompasses the identification of existing programs, the analysis of student services in relation to identified student needs, the assessment of effectiveness and efficiency of existing programs and recommendations for reforming or refining these programs.

The two-year effort, which began in July 1, 2002, offers each participating district a small incentive grant of approximately $5,000 per year to help support district participation; provide substantial technical assistance from a consultant contractor; and implement a collegial process for evaluation, review and revision of how student services are organized, staffed and delivered. The districts were selected based on an articulation agreement with the NJDOE’s Office of School to Career and College Initiatives, which initiated a complementary project with pilot sites, under the New Jersey School Counseling Initiative. Exemplary work products resulting from the initiative are planned to be showcased regionally and statewide in 2004.

23. Peer-to-Peer Transitions Project

This project is designed to reduce factors that place students at risk for substance abuse and other negative behaviors as they transition from middle school to high school. Under an interagency agreement, NJDOE has provided a third year of funding to the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) to expand the Peer-to-Peer Transitions Project. The project utilizes the existing network of peer leadership programs in New Jersey that has been established under the New Jersey Middle School Peer-to-Peer Program, a collaborative effort among NJDOE, DHSS, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the Department of Law and Public Safety.

24. New Jersey Student Health Survey

The NJDOE, has partnered with the Department of Health and Senior Services and the Department of Law and Public Safety to develop and implement the New Jersey Student Health Survey (NJSHS). The survey is intended to consolidate the four existing state surveys (Youth Risk Behavior Survey, Drug and Alcohol Use Among New Jersey High School Students, Communities that Care Survey, Youth Tobacco Survey) that collect information on student health issues. The survey information is used to guide the development of statewide policies and programs and help state agencies fulfill reporting requirements. The high school NJSHS was administered in the spring of 2003. Planning is underway for the development and implementation of the middle grades survey.

25. Alternative Education

Regulations for alternative education programs have been adopted by the State Board of Education as a subchapter (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-8) in the new Chapter of administrative code titled Programs to Support Student Development (N.J.A.C. 6A:16). The provisions of the new subchapter regulate the application process and approval criteria for the operations of alternative education programs. The department has developed and disseminated guidance documents titled A Guide and Application for the Operation and Approval of Middle School Alternative Education Programs and A Guide and Application for the Operation and Approval of High School Alternative Education Programs. Special assistance has been provided to the Abbott school districts, which are required to have alternative education programs in middle and high schools.

26. V-Free Initiative

Since September 2000, the NJDOE has supported the V-Free Initiative, which is administered through the Center for Youth Policy and Programs of the New Jersey Department of State. The program provides mini-grants to schools and community-based organizations to support student-initiated local efforts to prevent violence, vandalism and victimization.

27. Drug Abuse Education Fund Project

Per the provisions of C:2C:43-3.5 and C.54A:9-25.12 et. seq, a Drug Abuse Education Fund (DAEF) was established from portions of taxpayer-designated refunds and penalties assessed against individuals adjudicated or convicted of certain crimes. The resources accumulated in the fund are appropriated annually to NJDOE for distribution to non-governmental entities for the use of law enforcement personnel in providing drug abuse education on a statewide basis. The NJDOE has received the first appropriation under these statutory provisions and issued a contract for the first year of services in the spring of 2002 and plans to issue a second contract for the 2003-2004 school year.

28. Education Law Enforcement Partnerships Grant Program

Under this program, funds were provided to the Englewood School District to assist in the development of consortia between law enforcement personnel and schools in the district to implement substance abuse and violence prevention program activities. The programs provided under the grant are intended to give students the skills to recognize and resist the pressures that place them at risk for substance use and violence, as well as stimulate community interest and encourage family involvement in substance abuse prevention and positive heath practices.

29. Violence Institute of New Jersey

The Violence Institute of New Jersey (VINJ), University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), was established to provide resources to state government, as well as coordinate violence prevention and research activities within UMDNJ. The NJDOE has established a relationship with VINJ to help identify violence prevention resources for use by schools and, where appropriate, coordinate with VINJ on addressing violence issues in schools. The NJDOE and VINJ regularly share information and resources. For example, VINJ staff represented NJDOE at a federally sponsored national conference titled School Safety: Technologies, Research and Emerging Concepts in 2002, and provided information and recommendations for the development of safe school campuses.

30. Collaboration with Mental Health Agencies and Student Support Personnel

One of the conclusions to be drawn from the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 and national school tragedies, such as the Littleton, Colorado incident, is that schools should examine how they collaborate with local mental health agencies. The effective use of student support personnel and the development of relationships between them and mental health providers are important components of schools' responses to violence. Therefore, the NJDOE continues to forge effective links between New Jersey schools and mental health providers.

Specifically, NJDOE staff continues to collaborate with the leadership of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey (ASAPNJ) and the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists (NJASP) and to establish effective working relationships, identify areas of concern and consider strategies for improving the delivery of student support services. ASAPNJ, NJASP and the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies (NJAMHA) have all assigned representatives to serve on an advisory board to help guide the Student Support Services Planning and Development Initiative (SSSPDI).

C. Local School District Violence Prevention Efforts

Districts use many curricular and non-curricular programs in their efforts to prevent violence among students. The most frequently cited programs (in 2001-2002) were: Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), programs developed locally, Here’s Looking at You 2000, the Bullying Prevention Program, the Child Assault Prevention Program and the Social Problem Solving Program. See Table 7.

Table 7: Number of Districts Using Selected Violence Prevention Curricula

Violence Prevention Instructional Program

Number of Districts Using This Curriculum

a) B.A.B.E.S. Program

125

b) Bullying Prevention Program

207

c) Child Assault Prevention Program

165

d) Drug Abuse Resistance Ed. (D.A.R.E.)

447

e) Here's Looking at You 2000

246

f) Interpersonal Creative Problem Solving (ICPS)

12

g) Keys to Innervisions

10

h) Life Skills Training

115

i) Locally Developed Program

317

j) McGruff's Drug Prevention & Child Protection

79

k) PeaceBuilders

22

l) Quest: Skills for Growing/Adolescence/Action

65

m) Reconnecting Youth

13

n) Resolving Conflict Creatively (RCCP)

23

o) SANKOFA

10

p) Second Step

45

q) Social Problem Solving Program

131

r) Strengthening Families Program

20

s) Teaching Students to be Peacemakers

63

t) Violence Prevention Curriculum for Adolescents

51

u) Other

287

Note. Based on responses to the Internet-based ESEA Title IV, Part A data collection. N=610.


Future Directions

The recent history of violent tragedies in our nation’s schools and communities has strengthened the resolve of the NJDOE to provide policies, programs and other strategic initiatives which support local district efforts to develop and maintain safe and disciplined school environments. The NJDOE is committed to providing schools with supportive resources for the improvement of comprehensive school safety programs and helping schools to further reduce current levels of violence, vandalism and substance abuse. In light of our commitment, the NJDOE plans to implement or maintain the following:

A. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

As a condition for receiving funds under the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the NJDOE is required to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that students attending persistently dangerous schools or who become victims of violent criminal offenses while in or on the school grounds that the students attend be allowed to attend a safe public school within the local educational agency. The NJDOE’s policy will be effective July 1, 2003. Schools are required to implement the policy by September 2, 2003.

B. Positive Student Discipline Reform Demonstration Project

The NJDOE intends to enter into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Violence Institute of New Jersey (VINJ) at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) to assist the NJDOE in administering, implementing and evaluating a research-based approach to school safety, including student discipline and positive student development, in three New Jersey school districts. The goal of the project is to create safety and order in participating schools without unnecessarily excluding students. The project will include the implementation of comprehensive and science-based safety and discipline policies and practices that include prevention, intervention, referral and continuity of care programs, services and activities that maximize supportive school responses to student concerns and minimize the use of student exclusion from school as a disciplinary tool.

C. Children We Share: Partners in Student Discipline and Development (Phase II)

The goal of this planned project is to expand upon the materials developed under Phase I of the project, which provide information for school administrators to effectively engage parents and families in promoting positive youth development, with particular attention given to discipline issues. In Phase II, the NJDOE intends to develop and provide training materials and training programs for teams of school staff and parents that will facilitate the delivery of trainings on positive discipline and youth development in their schools and communities, using the materials developed in Phase I.

D. Gang Prevention and Intervention Initiative

The purpose of this planned collaborative initiative with the Juvenile Justice Commission (JJC) and the Department of Law and Public Safety, is to develop a comprehensive array of programs and services designed to assist local schools and community-based organizations to understand and positively address negative youth gang issues. The initiative will expand upon the curriculum materials and programs developed by JJC in 2002 under a memorandum of agreement with the NJDOE.

E. Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth

Under a grant from the United States Department of Education, the NJDOE plans to develop materials and provide supportive services to help schools coordinate and implement programs under which students suspended, expelled or otherwise removed from school perform community service. The goal of the program is to provide suspended and expelled students with meaningful activities to occupy their time during their absences from school; to help them avoid negative behavior; and to teach them the value of service to others and their communities.

F. Technical Assistance

The NJDOE intends to provide technical support programs and services for the implementation of the regulations addressing school safety, violence and health services found in N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development and related statutes, as well as provide assistance to schools in the effective implementation of the Principles of Effectiveness required under the federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act.

G. Collaborative Partnerships

The NJDOE aims to continue to collaborate with the following groups: Violence Institute of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, the Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey, the New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists and intends to continue to support the various collaborative initiatives described above in the Programmatic Response section of this report.


Appendix A: Public School Safety Law*

AN ACT concerning violence in the public schools and amending P.L.1982, c.163.

C.18A:17-46 Reporting of act of violence by school employee; annual report; public hearing.

Any school employee observing or having direct knowledge from a participant or victim of an act of violence shall, in accordance with standards established by the commissioner, file a report describing the incident to the school principal in a manner prescribed by the commissioner, and copy of same shall be forwarded to the district superintendent.

The principal shall notify the district superintendent of schools of the action taken regarding the incident. Annually, at a public hearing in October, the superintendent of schools shall report to the board of education all acts of violence and vandalism which occurred during the previous school year. The proceedings of the public hearing shall be transcribed and kept on file by the board of education, which shall make the transcript available to the public. Verification of the annual report on violence and vandalism shall be part of the State's monitoring of the school district, and the State Board of Education shall adopt regulations that impose a penalty on a school employee who knowingly falsifies the report. A board of education shall provide ongoing staff training, in cooperation with the Department of Education, in fulfilling the reporting requirements pursuant to this section. The majority representative of the school employees shall have access monthly to the number and disposition of all reported acts of school violence and vandalism.

The board of education shall file the transcript of the public hearing with the Division of Student Services in the Department of Education by November 1. The division shall review the transcript to ensure compliance with this section of law. The costs of staff training and transcribing the public hearing and printing the transcript shall be paid by the Department of Education.

Approved January 2, 2002.

18A:17-47. Discharge of, or discrimination against, school employee who files report

It shall be unlawful for any board of education to discharge or in any manner discriminate against a school employee as to his employment because the employee had filed a report pursuant to section 1 of this act. Any employee discriminated against shall be restored to his employment and shall be compensated by the board of education for any loss of wages arising out of the discrimination; provided, however, if the employee shall cease to be qualified to perform the duties of his employment he shall not be entitled to restoration and compensation.

L.1982, c. 163, s. 2, eff. Oct. 28, 1982.

18A:17-48. Annual report to legislature

The Commissioner of Education shall each year submit a report to the Education Committees of the Senate and General Assembly detailing the extent of violence and vandalism in the public schools and making recommendations to alleviate the problem.

L.1982, c. 163, s. 3, eff. Oct. 28, 1982.

* Pertinent Sections


Appendix B: Data Forms


Appendix C: Weapons and Substance Detail

Weapons

2000-2001

20001-2002

Handgun

10

0.6%

11

0.8%

Rifle

0

0.0%

1

0.1%

Air Gun

29

1.9%

31

2.2%

Imitation Gun

120

7.7%

70

4.9%

Bomb - Exploded

0

0.0%

1

0.1%

Bomb - Unexploded

1

0.1%

1

0.1%

 
Knife

963

61.9%

924

64.1%

Pin

12

0.8%

15

1.0%

Chain

12

0.8%

10

0.7%

Mace

20

1.3%

23

1.6%

Other

388

25.0%

354

24.6%

Total Weapons (duplicated*)

1,555

100%

1,441

100%

 
Substances        
Alcohol

449

14.2%

462

15.5%

Marijuana

2,188

69.4%

2,018

67.5%

Amphetamines

36

1.1%

55

1.8%

Crack

5

0.2%

3

0.1%

Cocaine

58

1.8%

62

2.1%

Hallucinogens

29

0.9%

24

0.8%

Narcotics

46

1.5%

77

2.6%

Depressants

54

1.7%

44

1.5%

Steroids

0

0.0%

3

0.1%

Prescription Drugs

131

4.2%

111

3.7%

Inhalants

18

0.6%

18

0.6%

Drug Paraphernalia

140

4.4%

113

3.8%

Total Substances (duplicated*)

3,154

100.0%

2,990

100.0%

 
* More than one type of weapon or substance may be associated with an incident.

Appendix D: District Totals, by County