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SOMA Schools Sees Decrease in Violence; Ranked Third in County

The South Orange and Maplewood School District saw a decrease in incidents of violence, vandalism, substance abuse and HIB by 24 percent from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013.

The South Orange and Maplewood School District saw a 24 percent decrease in incidents of violence, vandalism, substance abuse and harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB), from 2011-2012 to 2012-2013, according to a recent report.

However according to the report, the SOMA district had the third most reported incidents of violence in the county, trailing only trailed only Newark and East Orange with 197 and 162 incidents respectively.

The New Jersey Department of Education released an annual report on Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse in Schools. The report documents self-reported incidents of violence in each district.

“The South Orange Maplewood School District takes the safety and wellbeing of our students and staff very seriously,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Osborne. “We therefore are meticulous about reporting every incident to the state.”

In total, there were 137 instances of violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse and HIB during the 2012-2013 school year. There were 73 cases of violence, 14 cases of vandalism, seven involving weapons and 13 involving substance abuse.

The district had 35 circumstances of HIB, behind West Orange, with 38, Nutley, with 39 and Newark with 172.

“Since there is a great deal of inconsistency in how districts report data, including what types of incidents they include in their reports, it is more useful to compare an individual district’s statistics to its own previous year, rather than to other districts,” said Osborne. “In SOMSD, incidents of violence, vandalism, substance abuse, harassment, intimidation and bullying are actually down 24 percent from 180 total incidents in 2011-2012 to 137 in 2012-2013.”

The district saw a sharp decrease from the 2011-2012 school year, which had a total of 180 incidents. There were 94 cases of violence, 64 cases of vandalism and seven incidents involving weapons, according to the SOMA School District.

The 2011-2012 school year was the first in which cases of HIB were documented but were integrated within the other categories. The 2012-2013 school year was the first to have HIB as a separate category.

Districts are required to report incidents that occur on school grounds during school hours, on a school bus, or at school-sponsored events.

Amended by Governor Christie in 2011 through the Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, districts are required to report all incidents confirmed by the school board that that meet the definition of HIB, including those that occur off school grounds.

In addition, they must report the number of HIB investigations conducted; the trainings provided to prevent and reduce incidents of HIB; and the programs designed to create school-wide conditions to prevent and address HIB.

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