Violence, Vandalism and Harrassment Decreasing in Township Schools

Orvyl Wilson1

Orvyl Wilson, director of school management

Incidents of violence, vandalism and harassment are decreasing in all nine of the district schools, according to a district official.

Orvyl Wilson, director of school management, told the Board of Education at its Oct. 17 meeting that not only is there a “downward trend” in all of the categories of violence, vandalism, substance abuse and student discipline that are reportable to the state Department of Education, but there is a “significant decrease” in what was reported in the district’s three largest schools.

Wilson made his comments during his annual violence and vandalism report to the board.

School districts throughout the state are required to report to the DOE incidents of violence; vandalism; harassment, intimidation and bullying; weapons and substance abuse.

Wilson said the district in the 2012-2013 school year reported a total of 22 incidents of violence, down from 175 the previous year; 15 incidents of vandalism, down from 23 the previous year; eight weapons infractions, up from four the previous year; 20 incidents involving drugs, down from 38 the previous year and 32 incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying. This was the first year the latter category was required to be reported.

Reportable incidents in the district’s three largest schools – Samson G. Smith, Franklin Middle School and Franklin High School – decreased markedly, Wilson said.

In Sampson, incidents dropped from 13 in 2011-2012 to six last year; in the middle school, incidents dropped from 79 in 2011-2012 to 34 last year, and in the high school, they dropped from 115 in 2011-2012 to 43 last year.

Using a series of slides depicting statistics from each of the district’s schools, Wilson told the board that among the top infractions district-wide are incidents on school buses and physical aggression. He said the acts of physical aggression are more likely to occur in the classrooms.

In the middle school, the top infractions of physical aggression and non-compliance with staff are more likely to occur in the classrooms and the hallways, he said.

In the high school, the top infractions of noncompliance, defiance and disrespect to staff and failure to comply with teacher or administrative detention were more likely to occur in the classrooms and the hallways.

The staff is “analyzing the data with building administrators, guidance counselors and other intervention specialists monthly” to identify students in need of special programs and to identify the professional development needs of teachers.

Principals, Wilson said, are looking to find programs “that can offer support to students.”

Six of teh district’s schools are using a “Positive Behavior Support Program” designed to reduce the number of incidents and suspensions, he said.

Mark Fitzgerald of Somerset asked Wilson if he felt everything that needed to be reported actually was.

“I think there has been significant under-reporting,” Fitzgerald said.

“We report every incident that occurs” that fits state guidelines, Wilson said.

Schools Superintendent Edward Seto backed Wilson up.

“The worst thing anyone can do is not report stuff that needs to be reported,” he said. “We are very vigorous in reporting.”

Data is important, Seto said, “but what really matters is what we’re doing about it.”

Wilson said the district has a “number of activities we do in all of the schools to promote civility and respect for one another.”

Wilson said the district also involves parents in the process.

“We have an initiative to continue to require parents to come in, not just when there’s a suspension, but when there’s a concern,” he said.

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