Incidents of violence and vandalism have remained roughly the same over a three-year period, West Deptford schools superintendent Kevin Kitchenman said in his annual report at Monday night’s school board meeting.
There were 68 incidents of violence and 14 incidents of vandalism reported in the district in 2009-10, with violence down slightly from the previous year, but on par with 2007-08. Every school reported at least five incidents of violence, and the schools with larger populations reported more incidents.
“Percentage-wise, it’s about the same,” Kitchenman said.
The middle school had the most incidents, with 28 among 1,007 students, and the high school had the second-most, with 17 incidents among 964 students.
The rate of violence was in the single digits, percentage-wise, across all schools in the district, and Kitchenman stressed that the statistics don’t necessarily speak to the severity of an incident.
“A student throws one punch at another student–that’s an incident of violence,” he said.
While there were four weapons reported, Kitchenman said none of them were guns.
“[There was] nothing that would be tantamount to a weapon made specifically to do harm–like a switchblade or anything like that,” he said.
Kitchenman explained that a weapon could be anything used to do injure someone, regardless of whether it was designed for that purpose.
And though the district has a strong policy against weapons, there isn’t a zero-tolerance policy, Kitchenman said.
Beyond what gets into the violence and vandalism report, there’s other information–things like cutting school–that school administrators review over the summer, which could result in changes to policy, depending on what recommendations they come up with, Kitchenman said.
Ultimately, it’s just as important to look at what the district is doing to reduce violence and substance abuse, Kitchenman said.
The district employs a wide array of solutions–everything from individual and group counseling to character education to random drug and alcohol testing–to try to combat those problems.
“We believe we’re doing a great deal, but we’re always looking to expand that,” Kitchenman said.
And at the middle school and high school, there’s also a full-time student assistance counselor, who handles with everything from the effects of substance abuse–whether direct or indirect–to family and relationship problems. The student assistant counselor differs from regular guidance counselors in that there are even stricter rules for confidentiality–almost approaching the doctor-patient level–where the only exception is reporting information on students who intend to do harm to themselves or others.
“It’s a very important position,” Kitchenman said.
Next year should bring big changes to the statistics, he added, given the switch to grade-level schools, and eventually, the new state regulations on bullying will likely have an effect on what gets reported.
2009-2010 statistics for each school are below.