A spike in violence at the middle school and high school drove West Deptford’s violence and vandalism statistics up by about 40 percent in 2010-2011, district superintendent Kevin Kitchenman said in his annual report Monday.
Incidents of violence at the high school doubled, from to 35 in 2010-2011, and the middle school saw a similar jump, from 28 incidents in 2009-2010 to 49 in 2010-2011.
Reports of weapons in schools also jumped, from 4 in 2009-2010 to 8 in 2010-2011, though none of those were guns, Kitchenman said, and none were actually being wielded as weapons at the time.
“In every case, it was a pocketknife,” Kitchenman said.
But early data for this school year point to those spikes as a one-year aberration, Kitchenman said, with 35 incidents reported through the end of December, putting the current-year trend pointing to a total of about 70 incidents, which would be on par with the previous several years.
Vandalism—which also includes thefts—was down slightly, and Kitchenman said nearly all of those incidents involved theft, rather than property damage.
School administrators are continuing the measures they’ve been using the past several years to try to decrease the incidents of violence—character education and school assemblies directed at emphasizing positive behavior, clubs designed to foster a friendlier school environment and individual and group counseling, among others, Kitchenman said.
While the incidents of substance abuse at the high school were up as well, Kitchenman said the random drug testing program continues to be an effective deterrent.
And for the first time, as required by the new state harrassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) law, Kitchenman was able to give a picture of what’s happening this year—though the HIB requirements somewhat cloud the current-year statistics.
While the three elementary schools reported 10 total incidents of violence in the first half of the school year, almost as much as they reported the entire year before, those numbers are somewhat misleading.
“They’re all HIB incidents—they’re not fights, they’re not assaults,” Kitchenman said.
Add to that 19 bullying incidents at the middle school—making up all the violence reported there through December—and one incident at the high school, and the vast majority of violence falls under the HIB reporting.
“It doesn’t necessarily mean physical,” Kitchenman said. “Even though the majority of them were not physical, they were verbal, that’s where it’s categorized.”
Of the 35 HIB incidents reported through December, 25 were verbal incidents, as opposed to just six physical incidents.
And it isn’t a surprise the majority of HIB incidents occur at the middle school—in fact, Kitchenman said it’s exactly what they expected.
“It’s universal across the state—middle school is where the highest percentage of incidents are going to occur,” he said. “Our numbers bear that out.”
2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 (through Dec. 2011) Violence 76 68 96 35 Vandalism 7 14 11 1 Weapons 0 4 8 0 Substance abuse 9 11 20 4
Individual school statistics are below:2010-2011 Violence Vandalism Weapons Substance abuse Green-Fields 9 1 0 0 Oakview 0 0 0 0 Red Bank 3 0 1 0 WDHS 35 5 2 20 WDMS 49 5 5 0
2011-2012 (through Dec. 2011) Violence Vandalism Weapons Substance abuse Green-Fields 5 0 0 0 Oakview 4 0 0 0 Red Bank 1 0 0 0 WDHS 6 1 0 4 WDMS 19 0 0 0