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VIOLENCE, VANDALISM AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE
IN NEW JERSEY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

2004-2005

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

NEW JERSEY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

July 2006
PTM 1505.64

Commissioner’s Annual Report to the Education
Committees of the Senate and General Assembly
On Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse
In New Jersey Public Schools
July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005

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

Lucille E. Davy
Acting Commissioner

Prepared by staff of the
Division of Student Services

Barbara Gantwerk
Acting 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

July 2006
PTM 1505.64


STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION

Table of Contents

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

INTRODUCTION

A. Legislative Charge

B. Purpose of the Report

C. Federal and State Context

1. Gun-Free Schools Act

2. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

3. Violence Awareness Week

4. Public Hearings on Violence and Vandalism

5. Penalties for Falsification of EVVRS Records

6. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

7. Student Drug Testing

8. Suicide Reports, Professional Development and Prevention Instruction

9. Administrative Code

D. Changes to the Reporting System

1. Background

2. Changes to Meet Requirements of the Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

3. Efforts to Reduce Variability in the Application of Standards for Reporting

Findings

A. Unduplicated Counts

B. Three-Year Trends

C. Results by School Type

D. Header Information

E. Incident Frequency by Major Category

F. Incident Frequency by Type within Major Category

G. Cost of Vandalism

H. Disciplinary Actions Taken

I. Offenders and Victims

J. Analysis of Data on Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

K. Data Summary

L. Review of Violence Data of Selected Districts

PROGRAMMATIC RESPONSE

A. Policy

1. Administrative Code

2. Student Conduct

3. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

4. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

5. School Violence Awareness Week

6. Public Hearings on Violence and Vandalism

7. Alternative Education

B. Prevention and Intervention Programs

1. Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Program

2. Homeland Security Grant

3. Core Curriculum Content Standards

4. Intervention and Referral Services

5. Positive Student Discipline Reform Demonstration Project

6. Social Norms Project

7. Developing Safe and Civil Schools: A Social and Emotional Learning Initiative

8. Character Education Initiative

9. New Jersey Center for Character Education

10. Youth Gang Prevention and Intervention Project

11. Student Support Services Planning and Development Project

12. Peer Transitions Project

13. Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth

14. Drug Abuse Education Fund Project

C. Professional Development and Technical Support

1. Title IV-A and USCO Training and Technical Assistance Project

2. School Safety and Security

3. Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Promising Programs Showcase

4. Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth Conference

5. Student Conduct

6. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

7. Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS)

8. Intervention and Referral Services

9. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

10. Technical Assistance

D. Publications and Materials

1. Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services

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

3. School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines

4. Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Promising Programs Showcase

5. Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

6. Memorandum of Agreement

7. Emergency and Crisis Planning for Schools

8. Gangs, Guns and Drugs

E. Planning, Collaboration and Coordination

1. Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force

2. Collaboration with Mental Health Agencies and Student Support Staff

3. Other Collaborative Partnerships

F. Research, Evaluation and Data Collection

1. Evaluation/Data Collection Projects

2. New Jersey Student Health Survey

3. School Safety and Security Checklist Audits

FUTURE DIRECTIONS

A. Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Program

B. School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines

C. Youth Gang Prevention

D. Intervention and Referral Services

E. School Safety, Security and Crisis Prevention and Response Training

F. Student Drug Testing

G. Suicide Professional Development, Instruction and Reporting

H. Evaluation and Data Collection Projects

APPENDICES

Appendix A: Public School Safety Law

Appendix B: Summary of Changes to Incident Definitions, 2003-04

Appendix C: Data Collection Form

Appendix D: Weapons and Substance Detail

Appendix E: District Totals by County

List of Figures and Tables

Figure 1: Incidents by School Type

Figure 2: Number of Schools by Range of Incidents

Figure 3: Incidents by Major Category

Figure 4: Types of Vandalism Where Districts Incurred Cost

Figure 5: Number of Suspensions by Duration

Figure 6: Placement of Students Removed or Suspended

Figure 7: Number of Schools Reporting Incidents of Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying

Table 1: Location of Incidents

Table 2: Police Notification

Table 3: Incidents by Type

Table 4: Decrease in Violence Incidents Reported by Selected Districts

Table 5: Disciplinary Action Taken

Table 6: Offender Type

Table 7: Victim Type

Table 8: Number of Districts Using SDFSCA Funds for Violence Prevention


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 school violence, safety and climate, student conduct and the use of illegal substances.

Prior to the 1999-2000 school year, districts submitted summaries of their violence and vandalism data to the county offices of education. In March of 2000, they reported incidents directly to NJDOE over the Internet on the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS). This years report is the sixth to provide data from the EVVRS. The total number of incidents reported by school districts in 2004-05 was 18,409, down 1,798 (or nine percent) from 2003-04 and down 3,777 (or 17 percent) from two years earlier (2002-03). This two-year decrease is reflected primarily in the declines in two of the four major categories of reporting, violence and vandalism. The two year declines in the number of incidents by category are:

  • violence (21 percent), driven primarily by a 37 percent reduction in the number of simple assaults, an 18 percent reduction in the number of fights, and a 35 percent decline in the number of threats reported;
  • vandalism (18 percent), exhibited by a 19 percent decrease in the number of incidents of damage to property and a 13 percent decline in the number of thefts reported;
  • weapons (four percent); and
  • substance abuse (one percent).

Consistent with previous years’ data, slightly more than seven schools in ten (71 percent) reported five or fewer total incidents in 2004-05 with nearly four in ten (38 percent) reporting no incidents at all. The reported location of incidents also mirrored that of prior years with three incidents in ten (30 percent) taking place in the classroom and another 21 percent in the school corridor. The police were notified in 40 percent of incidents reported, up from 35 percent from the 2002-03 school year.

The percentage of students committing offenses by student type remained fundamentally unchanged from prior years. Regular education students constituted 72 percent of offenders and students with disabilities 27 percent. There was an 11 percent increase from 2002-03 to 2004-05 in the number of school personnel reported as victims of any type of incident.

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:

  • Formation and continued coordination of a School Sector Advisory Committee and other working and planning groups of the Attorney General’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force to address the unique needs of schools for responding to potential attacks and threats. As a result of advisory committee planning, the department developed and disseminated to all chief school administrators a confidential publication titled School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines. The manual is currently being updated. On-site security audits have been conducted in almost every school building in New Jersey. Data from the audits are currently being analyzed to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
  • Development and dissemination of guidance documents, including: Four-part Intervention and Referral Services program materials in VHS videotape and DVD formats and accompanying CD-ROM containing the Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services (developed in support of N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7); an updated version of the Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying on School Property, at School-sponsored Functions and on School Buses (developed in support of N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.); Guidelines for Public Schools and Approved Charter Schools to File Violence and Vandalism Hearing Transcripts in Accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46; and Guidelines for Public Schools and Approved Charter Schools to Observe School Violence Awareness Week in accordance with N.J.S.A. 18A:36-5.1;
  • Review and adoption of regulations, including: the adoption in August 2005 of regulations on student conduct for inclusion in the chapter of administrative code, N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development; the expansion of the regulations on school safety and violence, which includes provisions for imposing 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)]; and the comprehensive review of N.J.A.C. 6A:16 for readoption in 2006;
  • Development and implementation of an Unsafe School Choice Option Policy, in accordance with the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001;
  • Hosting statewide conferences for developers of violence and substance abuse prevention and intervention programs designated as exemplary and promising by the United States Department of Education to showcase their programs to New Jersey educators. The presentations and conference proceedings were videotaped and copies disseminated to all New Jersey school districts and charter schools;
  • Implementation of the Positive Student Discipline Reform Demonstration Project; the Intervention and Referral Services Initiative; the Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth Project; Developing Safe and Civil Schools: A Social and Emotional Learning Initiative; the Social Norms Project; the Violence and Substance Abuse Prevention Data Project, the Title IV-A and Unsafe School Choice Option Training and Technical Assistance Project; and the Character Education Initiative, including establishment of the New Jersey Center for Character Education at Rutgers University;
  • Supplementing the capacity for local school response to behavioral, social-emotional and health problems by making available to all school districts federal funding, under the federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) program, that is specifically intended for local school violence and substance abuse prevention activities; and
  • Collaborative initiatives, including: the Attorney General’s Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force Infrastructure Advisory Committee-School Sector; Youth Gang Prevention and Intervention Project; Peer Transitions Program in cooperation with the Department of Health and Senior Services; co-sponsorship of the Stop the Pain: New Jersey Cares About Bullying Conference with the Department of Law and Public Safety and collaboration on the Cyber-Bullying Conference sponsored with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety; and collaboration with the Department of Human Services, Department of State, Attorney General’s Education Law Enforcement Working Group, Violence Institute of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Pupil Services Administrators Association, New Jersey Counselors Association, Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey, New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, New Jersey Association of School Psychologists and other organizations, associations and agencies.

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


INTRODUCTION

A. Legislative Charge

In 1982, N.J.S.A 18A:17-46 through 17-48 (see Appendix A), was signed into law. The "Public School Safety Law" was a response to a problem long recognized by the state Legislature, violence and vandalism in the schools. The law stipulated that:

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).

The law has a significant local component: It requires that school staff who witness or have knowledge of an incident of violence file a report of the incident with the school principal and, as amended in 2002, that the superintendent of schools hold a public hearing in the third week of October summarizing the data submitted to the department and submit a transcript of the proceedings to the department.

B. Purpose of the Report

The Commissioner’s report provides the Legislature with data in four broad categories of incidents: violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse. Analysis of trends yields indications of progress and of concern and provides guidance to the department as it endeavors to focus its resources appropriately. In this report, the department also notifies the Legislature and the public of the actions taken by the Commissioner, State Board of Education and the Department of Education (DOE) to address the problems indicated in the data. Since 1994, when the State Board of Education adopted a resolution supporting implementation of the Department of Education’s Safe Schools Initiative, the department has embarked on various actions designed to address the problem of school violence and disruption documented in the incident reporting system. The department’s recent actions under the Safe Schools Initiative are described in the Programmatic Response section beginning on page 24 of this report.

C. Federal and State Context

Provided below are summary descriptions of federal and state statutes and regulations that support the need for accurate and complete data collection within the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS). The intent of these requirements is to support the provision of safety and security for students and to prevent unnecessary or extended interruptions to student learning.

The data gathered under the EVVRS are an excellent source of information for helping schools conduct comprehensive needs assessments, including the identification of patterns of incidents (e.g., types, locations, times, individuals or groups involved) consistent with the statutory and regulatory information provided below. The identification of priority needs based upon objective information is the cornerstone of effective planning for appropriate educational responses to school safety needs.

1. Gun-Free Schools Act

Under the Gun-Free Schools Act, districts must report annually the number of firearm incidents that occurred by type of firearm [rifle, handgun, other (e.g., bomb)] within the type of school (i.e., elementary, middle, high school). In completing information on each incident as it is entered, each school fulfills its reporting obligation and need not summarize the data separately at the end of the year.

2. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

The Unsafe School Choice Option provision (Title IX, Part E, Subpart 2, SEC. 9532) under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) of 2001 sets forth the following:

Each state receiving funds under this Act shall establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that a student attending a persistently dangerous public elementary school or secondary school, as determined by the State in consultation with a representative sample of local educational agencies, or who becomes a victim of a violent criminal offense, as determined by State law, while in or on the grounds of a public elementary school or secondary school that the student attends, be allowed to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary school within the local educational agency, including a public charter school. (italics added)

The NJDOE’s Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO) Policy was adopted by a resolution of the State Board of Education in June 2003. The USCO statute and the NJDOE’s USCO policy contain two provisions that apply to local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving funds under NCLB: 1) persistently dangerous schools; and 2) victims of violent criminal offenses. Effective the beginning of each school year, LEAs receiving NCLB funds must be prepared to complete the transfer of students who choose to exercise the option offered under Provision I and Provision II of the USCO policy, as appropriate. Compliance with the policy is a condition of receiving funds under any and all titles under NCLB. Chief school administrators are annually required to certify compliance with the NJDOE’s USCO policy in their applications for NCLB funds.

The maintenance of accurate and complete records of incidents of violence, vandalism and substance abuse is particularly important since the EVVRS is the data source used by the NJDOE to determine persistently dangerous schools under the USCO Policy. Additionally, schools are required to report information on victims of violent criminal offenses, pursuant to the USCO Policy.

The required policy for these school safety requirements may be found at http://www.nj.gov/njded/grants/nclb/policy/unsafe.htm. A question and answer document can be found at: http://homeroom.state.nj.us/evvrs/uscopolicyqanda.doc. In addition, a fact sheet describing the process for determining the policy and summarizing key issues is located at: http://www.nj.gov/njded/grants/nclb/policy/unsafe_facts.htm

3. 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." Regulations, (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.2) in support of "School Violence Awareness Week" were adopted in August 2005. Guidance on school district obligations for the week is provided annually to each school district. During this week, school districts are required to organize activities, such as age-appropriate forums for student discussions on conflict resolution, as well as issues of student diversity and tolerance. Also, districts are required to invite law enforcement personnel to join members of the teaching staff in the discussions. Finally, programs must be provided for school board employees that are designed to help them recognize warning signs of school violence and to instruct them on recommended conduct during an incident of school violence.

4. Public Hearings on Violence and Vandalism

In January 2002, a state law (N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46 et seq.) was passed requiring each chief school administrator to conduct a public hearing on all acts of violence and vandalism which occurred in the previous school year. Regulations [N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.2(a)4 and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.3(f)] on the hearing were adopted in August 2005. Guidance on school district obligations for the hearings is provided annually to each school district. The proceedings of the pubic hearing must be transcribed and kept on file by the local board of education, which must make the transcript available to the public.

Verification of the annual report must be part of the NJDOE’s monitoring of the school district. The local board of education is required to provide ongoing staff training in fulfilling the reporting requirements pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46. Additionally, the majority representative of the school employees must have access monthly to the number and disposition of all reported acts of school violence and vandalism.

5. Penalties for Falsification of EVVRS Records

In compliance with N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46 et seq., the NJDOE has adopted regulations [N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.3(f)] that require district boards of education to impose a penalty on school employees who knowingly falsify a report of an incident of violence and vandalism.

6. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

Legislation (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.) enacted in September 2002 required each school district to adopt a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying on school property, at school-sponsored functions and on school buses by September 2003. Regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.9) on intimidation, harassment and bullying were adopted in August 2005. To assist school districts in developing these policies, the legislation required the NJDOE to develop and issue a model policy applicable to grades kindergarten through twelve. The NJDOE’s model policy titled Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying on School Property, at School-sponsored Functions and on School Buses, that was updated in 2006, can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/njded/parents/bully.htm. Schools must report on the EVVRS all incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying that apply to the definition of harassment, intimidation and bullying under the statute.

Each school district is granted local control over the contents of the policy and ancillary procedures, but, at a minimum, all of the components set forth in the authorizing statute must be addressed in a school district’s policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying. In part, the provisions of the statute require school districts to stipulate both the consequences and the remedial actions for persons violating the policy; persons who engage in reprisal or retaliation against someone who reports a violation of the policy; and persons who falsely report allegations of harassment, intimidation and bullying as a means of retaliation or as a means of harassment, intimidation or bullying.

The NJDOE recognizes that decisions about consequences and actions to be taken in response to violations of policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying should take into consideration the unique circumstances of the acts and the persons involved, as well as the unique conditions and characteristics in each school district. The NJDOE also recognizes that these decisions must comport with existing school district policies, including those that address the provisions of N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs To Support Student Development, in general, and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.1, Code of Student Conduct, in particular, as well as the provisions of the district’s Memorandum of Agreement Between Education and Law Enforcement Officials, pursuant to N.J.A.C.6A:16-6, Law Enforcement Operations for Substances, Weapons, and Safety. N.J.A.C.6A:16-6, Law Enforcement Operations for Substances, Weapons, and Safety.

7. Student Drug Testing

Pursuant to N.J.S.A.18A:40A-22 et seq., district boards of education are permitted, but not required, to adopt policies for the random testing of controlled dangerous substances, as defined in N.J.S.A.2C:35-2 and anabolic steroids, of the district’s students in grades nine through twelve who participate in extracurricular activities or who possess parking permits. The policies must be consistent with regulations to be adopted by the NJDOE in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, the New Jersey Constitution and the Federal Constitution.

8. Suicide Reports, Professional Development and Prevention Instruction

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:9A-24, any teaching staff member who, as a result of information obtained in the course of his or her employment, has reasonable cause to believe that a student has attempted or committed suicide, shall promptly report this information to the Division of Mental Health Services (DMHS), New Jersey Department of Human Services in a manner prescribed by the DMHS. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:16-111 et seq., each public school teaching staff member is required to complete at least two hours of instruction in suicide prevention in each professional development period, as part of the professional development requirement for public school teaching staff members established by the State Board. The professional development must be provided by a licensed health care professional with training and experience in mental health issues. Additionally, under N.J.S.A. 18A:16-111 et seq., school districts are required to provide instruction in suicide prevention for elementary, middle and high school students, in accordance with revisions to be made to the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.

9. Administrative Code

The State Board of Education approved a new chapter of administrative code entitled Programs to Support Student Development (N.J.A.C. 6A:16) in April 2001. The 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 assault 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.

In August 2005, the State Board of Education amended N.J.A.C. 6A:16 in the following areas described below. This chapter of administrative code is being reviewed for readoption in 2006.

  • Student conduct (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7), which establishes requirements for codes of student conduct, short-term suspensions, long-term suspensions, mandated student removals from general education, expulsions, conduct away from school grounds, staff responsibilities, attendance (including truancy), intimidation, harassment and bullying and student records and confidentiality;
  • School safety plans (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.1);
  • School Violence Awareness Week (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.2) and violence and vandalism public hearings [N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.2(a)4) and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.3(f)];
  • Incident reporting of violence, vandalism and substance abuse (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.3), which requires local report forms adopted by district boards of education to include all of the incident detail and offender and victim information that is reported on the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System;
  • Removals of students for firearms offenses (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.5), assaults with weapons offenses (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.6) and assaults on district board of education members or employees (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.7); and
  • Law enforcement operations for substances, weapons and safety (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-6).

D. Changes to the Reporting System

1. Background

Districts have reported incidents online for six years.1 The Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System, http://homeroom.state.nj.us (EVVRS), deployed in March 2000, allows districts to report information electronically about individual incidents – including offender and victim information. An EVVRS User Manual, accessible on the EVVRS homepage, contains general guidance for reporting and incident definitions, e.g., what constitutes a simple assault, aggravated assault, or a fight. A scenarios document, also on the EVVRS homepage, helps schools to classify an incident by describing typical incidents and key questions to consider when deciding to report and how to classify. The data entered on the EVVRS and verified by districts form the basis of the findings section of this report to the state legislature and of the report to the federal education department on the Unsafe School Choice Option policy.

2. Changes to Meet Requirements of the Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

The 2004-05 reporting year is the second in which changes made to incident definitions in the EVVRS were in effect. As noted above, the State Board of Education adopted the Unsafe School Choice Option Policy (USCO) in June, 2003 and reissued the policy a year later. Provision I defines criteria for identifying "persistently dangerous schools" and Provision II describes conditions leading to the determination that a student has been the victim of a violent criminal offense. Provision II, in particular, influenced changes in the incident definitions through its requirement that the offenses considered under this provision be aligned with those enumerated in the state criminal code. NJDOE staff reviewed definitions to determine their congruence with the definitions of "violent criminal offenses" in the state criminal code. The following EVVRS definitions were revised in varying degrees to bring them into alignment with those in the code: Violence (Fight, Gang Fight, Sex Offense, and Threat); Vandalism (Arson); and Weapons (Possession of a Firearm, Assault with a Weapon, and Possession of a Weapon). In order to include all types of violent criminal offense in the EVVRS, three new types of violence incidents were added: terroristic threat, kidnapping and harassment/intimidation/ bullying. Appendix B lists incident definitions, displaying both the version operational in 2002-03 and the version adopted in 2003-04.

3. Efforts to Reduce Variability in the Application of Standards for Reporting

The department recognizes that individuals may interpret and apply the definitions in the EVVRS User Manual differently. For example, one student calls a second student a name; the second student pushes in return and a shoving match begins. They stop when a security guard intervenes. One district might consider it a scuffle and not report it on the EVVRS, while another may consider it a fight sufficiently serious to report. The department recognizes that this kind of difference in perspective introduces "error" into the system, i.e., a departure from the true number that would be reported if everyone interpreted and applied the definitions in the same way. Therefore, there may be variability in reporting across districts. Additionally, a shift in responsibility for reporting within a school or district can produce changes in violence and vandalism figures reported year to year and, thus, represents another potential source of inaccuracy.

To reduce errors and promote consistency in reporting, the department created "scenarios" for those types of incidents that, due to their particular circumstances, invite discrete differences in interpretation. The scenarios describe incidents within the context in which they occur and provide factors to consider in selecting the correct incident category. The revised incident definitions and the scenarios were distributed to all chief school administrators, included in the revised EVVRS User Manual, posted separately on the EVVRS homepage, and discussed during the EVVRS training sessions. During its annual EVVRS training for district administrators and EVVRS account users conducted in the spring of 2004 and winter of 2004-05, the department stressed the importance of districts referring to these two documents when deciding whether an incident is the type to be reported on the EVVRS and, if so, how to classify it. The importance of including offender and victim information – particularly the information on USCO Provision II – received special attention in the EVVRS training and in notices e-mailed to all EVVRS account users during the 2003-04 school year.

__________________________________
1. For a description of changes to the reporting system pre-dating the Internet-based system, see this report for the school year 2000-2001, available at http://www.state.nj.us/njded/atoz.htm#V


Findings

A. Unduplicated Counts

This report provides unduplicated counts of incidents for the total number of incidents and the total by major reporting category. The total for the four incident categories will not necessarily add up to the grand total of all incidents. Beginning with the introduction of the EVVRS in 1999-2000, if a single incident included a threat and a simple assault, for example, each type is recorded and counted. In deriving a total for the number of incidents of violence, however, 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. Thus, totals as indicated, are unduplicated counts of the number of incidents within a category. A bias incident that included violence and vandalism would be counted as one bias incident in addition to being counted in the two major reporting categories.

B. Three-Year Trends

The Commissioner’s report to the legislature usually reports one-year changes (e.g., 2002-03 to 2003-04) in the incident data. This year’s report tracks two-year changes by major category and incident type within each category covered by the three school years 2002-03, 2003-04 and 2004-05. Because the two-year drop in the number of incidents of violence has been dramatic, the report explores the extent to which this drop in violence is general across all districts or associated more strongly with a subset of districts.

C. Results by School Type

The following 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 terminates in the 7 through 9 grade range, and a high school is defined as any school that terminates at grade 10 or above. Charter schools are included and are categorized in the same manner. Schools in special services school districts having only students with disabilities, are categorized by program type and not by grade range. Therefore, their data, along with those of adult evening high schools, are included under "other" in the chart below.

The 17 percent decline in the total number of incidents experienced in the past three years is reflected in changes in the incident figures for elementary and middle schools (30 percent and 25 percent respectively); high schools (seven percent) experienced a smaller decline. In 2004-05, more than half the incidents (57 percent, up from 51 percent in 2002-03) took place in high schools, one third (33 percent, down from 37 percent) occurred in middle schools, and eight percent in elementary schools (nine percent in 2002-03) and two percent in special services schools and adult evening high schools (three percent in 2002-03). See Figure 1.

Figure 1: Incidents by School Type
Figure 1: Incidents by School Type

In 2004-05, the number of schools reporting no incidents of any kind increased by more than 100 over the three-year period. Three schools in eight (38 percent) reported no incidents. When one includes this group that reported no incidents, slightly more than seven schools in ten (71 percent) reported five or fewer incidents. At the other end of the continuum, the number of schools in the categories representing the highest number of incidents (11-24 incidents, and 25 or more) declined by 37 and 51 schools respectively.

Figure 2: Number of Schools by Range of Incidents
Figure 2: Number of Schools by Range of Incidents

D. 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 in 2004-05 – required in 2005-06);
  • 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 over the three years on the location of incidents is nearly identical. (see Table 1). Three incidents in ten occurred in the classroom, while overall, slightly more than three in four (76 percent) occurred inside the school building.

Table 1: Location of Incidents

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

Location

# of Incidents

% of Total

# of Incidents

% of Total

# of Incidents

% of Total

Cafeteria

1,769

9%

1,621

9%

1,467

9%

Classroom

6,302

31%

5,530

30%

4,869

29%

Corridor

4,041

20%

3,749

21%

3,480

21%

Other inside school

3,363

17%

3,080

17%

2,948

18%

School grounds

2,388

12%

2,034

11%

1,894

11%

Bus

772

4%

728

4%

655

4%

Building exterior

485

2%

408

2%

386

2%

Other outside

1,203

6%

1,092

6%

1,016

6%

Total

20,323

100%

18,242

100%

16,715

100%

Missing*

1,836

1,972

1,694

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

With a decline in incidents, districts made fewer notifications to law enforcement in 2004-05. Although the number of notifications has declined, the percentage of incidents involving notification of law enforcement has increased (see Table 2). Notification of police occurred in 40 percent of all incidents reported by districts, an increase from 35 percent reported in 2002-03 (and from 32 percent two years earlier, 2001-2002 – not shown in Table 2). This shift may be indicative of districts reporting the more serious types of offenses and not reporting the less serious types that they had reported over the EVRRS in the past. It is also may be related to the increasing number of schools with school resource officers who are, in the majority of cases, local police officers. Having police officers in the schools may help clarify the need to notify law enforcement regarding certain types of incidents and, generally, make notification easier.

Table 2: Police Notification

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-05

# of Incidents Reported

% of Total

# of Incidents Reported

% of Total

# of Incidents Reported

% of Total

None

14,280

65%

12,448

62%

11,079

60%

Notified, no complaint

3,947

18%

3,918

19%

3,647

20%

Notified, complaint filed

3,893

18%

3,767

19%

3,675

20%

Total

22,120

101%*

20,133

100%

18,401

100%

Missing

66

81

8

* Total exceeds 100% due to rounding.

Districts reported 164 incidents of bias in the 2004-05 school year, representing no significant change from 2003-04 (167), and a two-year increase of eight percent from the 152 incidents of bias reported in 2002-03.

E. Incident Frequency by Major Category

Figure 3 displays the total unduplicated count of incidents by each of the four major reporting categories for the past three years. From 2002-03 to 2004-05, there were fewer incidents of violence (a decline of 21 percent); this decline is particularly notable in view of the addition of three types of violence (harassment/intimidation/bullying, terroristic threat and kidnapping in 2003-04). When 985 of the 1,134 incidents of harassment/intimidation/bullying that occurred without any other incident type occurring as part of that incident are not counted (as harassment/intimidation/bullying was not reported in 2002-03), there were 3,947 fewer incidents of violence reported in 2004-05 than had been reported by districts two years earlier, representing a decline of 28 percent. In the other three reporting categories, there was an 18 percent decrease in incidents of vandalism, and a small decrease in weapons offenses (four percent), and a one percent decrease in substance offenses between 2002-03 and 2004-05.

Figure 3: Incidents by Major Category
Figure 3: Incidents by Major Category

F. Incident Frequency by Type within Major Category2

The overall 21 percent two-year drop in the number of incidents of violence between 2002-03 and 2004-05 is indicated most markedly in the declines in the following types of violence evident in Table 3: simple assaults decreased by 1,851 incidents or 37 percent, fights by 1,078 or 18 percent, threats by 798 or 35 percent3, and sex offenses by 199 or 54 percent. There were no incidents of kidnapping reported in 2004-05. The 19 percent decrease in damage to property over the three years covered in the report and 13 percent decrease in thefts constitute the most notable changes in the vandalism category.

In the Weapons category, the seven bomb offenses comprised hand-made explosive devices, four of which exploded and three that failed to explode. No victims or associated cost to the school district related to these incidents were reported. With regard to the Substances category, the decline in the number of incidents involving possession may be due largely to a decline in the number of incidents involving drug paraphernalia. Incidents involving cocaine increased by 43 (from 66 to 109 or 65 percent) over the three-year period. See Appendix D.

__________________________________
2. Any one incident may be of more than one type, e.g., fight and damage to property, and, therefore, may appear in more than one category. 
3. As incidents reported under Terrorist Threat were recorded under Threat in 2002-03, the 2004-05 totals for both have been summed in calculating the percent change (35 percent) from 2002-03.

Table 3: Incidents by Type

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-2005

Two-Year Change*

Incident Type

# of Incidents

# of Incidents

# of Incidents

# of Incidents

%

Violence
Simple Assault

5,070

3,858

3,219

-1,851

-37%

Aggravated Assault

358

309

244

-114

-32%

Fight

5,844

5,163

4,766

-1,078

-18%

Gang Fight

46

81

103

57

124%

Robbery/Extortion

64

56

42

-22

-34%

Sex Offense

429

238

199

-230

-54%

Threat

2,269

1,578

1,292

-977

-43%

Terroristic Threat1

NA

241

179

-62

26%

Harassment/ Intimidation/Bullying1

NA

1,188

1,134

-54

-5%

Vandalism
Arson

119

130

121

2

2%

Bomb Threat2

134

116

127

-7

-5%

Burglary

157

167

116

-41

-26%

Damage to Property

2,082

1,877

1,694

-388

-19%

Fireworks

133

104

73

-60

-45%

Theft

1,594

1,489

1,387

-207

-13%

Trespassing

210

215

163

-47

-22%

Weapons
Firearm3

10

14

7

-3

-30%

Other Weapon

1,525

1,560

1,434

-91

-6%

Bomb Offense

1

3

7

6

600%

Substances
Use

1,975

1,822

1,993

18

1%

Possession

836

852

809

-27

-3%

Distribution

116

83

81

-35

-30%

* Change from 2002-03 to 2004-05
1. The figures in the two-year change columns represent a one-year change.
2. For 2002-03, the total of 134 includes six fake bomb incidents; the total of 116 for 2003-04 includes two; and the total of 127 for 2004-05 includes two fake bomb incidents.
3. Firearm incidents include handgun and rifle incidents only. Air guns and imitation guns are classified as "Other Weapons."

Much of the decline of over nearly 4,000 incidents of violence over the three-year period (see note in Table 4) can be attributed to large decreases reported by a few districts to a greater degree than it can be attributed to decreases across all districts. The data in Table 4 show the number of districts reporting at least 20 fewer incidents of violence between 2002-03 and 2004-05, grouped by the size of the decrease in reporting. The eight districts4 reporting at least 100 fewer incidents of violence were associated with over half (58 percent) of the net decline in school violence over the three-year period. Two districts accounted for 1,500 of the 2,305 fewer incidents reported by these eight districts combined.

Table 4: Decrease in Violence Incidents Reported by Selected Districts

Range of Decrease

# of Districts

Decrease

% of Total Net Decrease

>100

8

2,305

58.4%

50-99

7

411

10.4%

30-49

18

716

18.1%

20-29

18

415

10.5%

Total

51

3,847

97.5%

Note. Excludes 985 incidents of harassment, intimidation and bullying with no other type of offense reported as part of the incident, as harassment, intimidation and bullying were not reported in 2002-03. Total net decrease in violence over the two years was 3,947.

The department is reviewing the reasons for significant decreases in the number of incidents reported by school districts to ensure accuracy and identify successful efforts by districts to reduce violence. Nineteen of the 51 districts accounting for the large decline in violence incidents were surveyed in the spring of 2006 to assess the reasons attributed to the decline over the three-year period. See subsection L, Review of Violence Data of Selected Districts, for more information on this survey and other actions taken by the department to monitor the quality of district reporting.
__________________________________
4. These districts are: Camden City (963 fewer incidents of violence), Trenton (537), Jersey City (153), Englewood City (147), Vineland City (144), Toms River Regional (132), Atlantic City (117) and Union City (112).

G. Cost of Vandalism

Districts reported an unduplicated total of 1,003 incidents of vandalism in which they incurred cost, a decline of 15 percent from 2003-2004 and 27 percent from 2002-03. As in prior years, property damage (73 percent) and theft (24 percent) accounted for most of the incidents resulting in costs to districts in 2004-05 (see Figure 4). As multiple types of vandalism were involved in a few incidents, the percentages of all types of vandalism where the district incurred cost exceed 100 percent and the totals by type of vandalism in Figure 4 exceed the unduplicated total (1,003 incidents in 2004-05). The total cost to all districts was $513,061, a 19 percent decrease from the cost of vandalism in 2003-04 and a 16 percent decline from the cost in 2002-03.


Figure 4: Types of Vandalism Where Districts Incurred Cost

* Two Fireworks incidents included under Arson in 2003-04 and 2004-05.

H. Disciplinary Actions Taken

As in prior years, in 90 percent of the cases where a disciplinary action was taken, students who committed an offense received an out-of-school suspension. Removal to an alternative program was used in only two percent of the cases. The distribution across types of actions taken has remained consistent from year to year (see Table 5).

Table 5: Disciplinary Action Taken

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-05

Disciplinary Action

# of Actions Taken

% of Total

# of Actions Taken

% of Total

# of Actions Taken

% of Total

Expulsion

66

0%

51

0%

61

0%

Removal

485

2%

421

2%

357

2%

In-School Suspension

1,286

6%

962

4%

1,055

5%

Out-of-School Suspension

19,448

88%

19,756

90%

18,953

90%

Other

882

4%

835

4%

620

3%

Total

22,167

100%

22,025

100%

21,046

100%

Slightly fewer than half of the out-of-school suspensions (43 percent) were for less than five days; 20 percent were for 10 days or more (see Figure 5). The most frequently issued single suspension was that of five days – used in 4,495 cases (24 percent) in 2004-05.

Figure 5: Number of Suspensions by Duration Figure 5: Number of Suspensions by Duration

Figure 6 displays the types of alternative placements selected by districts when students were removed from school for disciplinary reasons. Of the 234 students placed in an out-of-district program in 2004-05, only 21 attended a county alternative education program, i.e., a program run by an LEA to which any district in the county may send a student, on a tuition basis.


Figure 6: Placement of Students Removed or SuspendedFigure 6: Placement of Students Removed or Suspended

I. Offenders and Victims

In 2004-05, regular education students constituted 72 percent of the offenders in the cases where the offender was known. Students with disabilities, who represent 16 percent of the student population, constituted slightly more than one quarter (27 percent) of reported offenders. The proportions are similar to those of 2002-03 and 2003-04. See Table 6.

__________________________________
5. In many cases of vandalism, particularly those of theft and damage to property, the offender is unknown to the district.  In 1,693 cases (8% of all incidents) in 2004-2005, the offender was reported as unknown.

Table 6: Offender Type

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-2005

# of Offenders

% of Total

# of Offenders

% of Total

# of Offenders

% of Total

Regular Education Student

14,575

71%

14,849

73%

13,952

72%

Student with Disability

5,649

28%

5,417

27%

5,262

27%

Student from Other District, Non-Student

182

1%

154

1%

105

1%

Total

20,406

100%

20,420

101%*

19,319

100%

Note. Omits cases where offender is unknown or missing.
* Total due to rounding.

The percentage of victims who were regular education students declined for the second year in row. They constituted a smaller percentage of victims in 2004-05 (57 percent) than in 2003-04 (61%) and 2002-03 (64 percent). The data in Table 7 also show a large one-year increase (from 2003-04 to 2004-05) of 375 (27 percent) in the number of school staff (all staff including contracted staff) who were victims of an offense of any kind. This increase follows two years of decline from a high of 1,923 in 2001-02 in the number of staff victimized. The percentage of students with a disability who were victims (18 percent) is slightly higher than their percentage (17 percent) in the student population.

Table 7: Victim Type

2002-2003

2003-2004

2004-2005

# of Victims

% of Total

# of Victims

% of Total

# of Victims

% of Total

Regular Education Student

5,630

64%

4,283

61%

4,409

57%

Student with Disability

1,511

17%

1,261

18%

1,369

18%

Student from Other District, Non-Student

114

1%

74

1%

162

2%

School Staff

1,569

18%

1,364

20%

1,739

23%

Total

8,824

100%

6,982

100%

7,679

100%

J. Analysis of Data on Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

The 2004-05 school year was the second year during which districts reported incidents of harassment, intimidation, and bullying on the EVVRS. Those incidents that were to be reported had to meet the criteria specified in the definition, a definition that is based upon criminal statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:16-1(a) :

Any gesture or written, verbal or physical act that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school -sponsored function or on a school bus and that:

a) a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming a student or damaging the student’s property; or b) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.

Thus, in order to be reported on the EVVRS, a bullying incident, for example, would not be reported if the victim failed to possess a distinguishing characteristic; nor would the bullying incident be reported where a) the victim possessed a distinguishing characteristic yet the incident did not cause harm or damage to the student’s property; or b) the act did not cause substantial interference or disruption with the orderly operation of the school. Only incidents that meet the criteria are to be reported.

A total of 1,134 incidents of harassment/intimidation/bullying were reported in 2004-05, down 53 incidents (5 percent) from the 1,188 reported in 2003-04. As in the previous year, some of these incidents occurred in conjunction with other incidents: assault (49), fight (21), threat (63), sex offense (16), theft (7) and damage to property (5). Very few incidents were reported by elementary schools (73, or 6 percent). Approximately half of the incidents were reported by middle schools (534, or 47 percent), and half by high schools (516, or 46 percent). The total of 1,134 incidents took place in only 85 (see Figure 7), or three percent of all schools, an average of 13 incidents per school.


Figure 7: Number of Schools Reporting Incidents of Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying
Figure 7: Number of Schools Reporting Incidents of Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying

__________________________________
6. Figure 7 does not include two adult high schools and two ungraded special education schools.

K. Data Summary

The 18,409 total number of incidents of represents a decrease of 1,978 incidents or nine percent from the unduplicated total of 20,207 reported in 2003-04 and a decrease of 3,777 (17 percent) from the unduplicated total of 22,186 reported in 2002-03. The largest decline was in the violence category with a two-year decline of 21 percent (28 percent when the total of 985 harassment/intimidation/bullying only incidents that were not reported in 2002-03 are excluded). Much of this decline was concentrated in 51 districts with a decrease of 20 or more reported incidents of violence over the three-year period. Other findings of note:

  • A 27 percent increase from 2003-04 in the number of staff that were victims of an incident of any kind;
  • An increase from 2002-03 in the percentage of incidents that resulted in notification of law enforcement;
  • A decline of 16 percent in the cost of vandalism and a 27 percent decline in the number of incidents involving cost to the district; and
  • The reported incidents of Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying exceeded 1,000 for the second year in a row.

L. Review of Violence Data of Selected Districts

The decline of nearly 4,000 incidents in the major category of violence between 2002-03 and 2004-05 was concentrated in 51 school districts (see Table 4). The impact of excluding from the comparison the 51 districts with more than 20 fewer incidents of violence reported was significant. With all districts included, there was a 21 percent decline in the number of violent incidents; however, when the 51 districts were excluded, incidents of violence actually increased by 13 percent. There were also notable differences in the vandalism and weapons categories when the 51 districts were excluded from the comparison. The comparison using all districts indicated a decline of 18 percent in the category of vandalism; however, when the 51 districts were excluded, there was a nine percent decline. In the weapons category, the analysis of all districts indicated a four percent decline which became a 22 percent increase when the 51 districts were removed from the comparison. The change in substance abuse incidents went from a four percent decline when all districts were considered to a two percent increase when the 55 districts were excluded from the analysis.

In order to ascertain the factors that contributed to the sizeable declines in incidents of violence, NJDOE surveyed a subgroup of the 51 school districts noted above. The group consisted of those districts with a decline of at least 100 incidents of violence over the three-year period and those reporting at least 50 incidents of violence in 2002-03 and experiencing a decline in incidents reported of at least 50 percent. Nineteen districts met at least one of these two criteria. The 19 districts were asked to:

  • confirm that the number of incidents reported in each category is consistent with the district’s written records;
  • verify that the categorization of incidents is correct based on the NJDOE’s incident definitions under EVVRS;
  • review all incident reports, including reports to law enforcement officials to ensure that all incidents were reported; and
  • interview staff, as appropriate, to determine that reporting requirements are being followed district-wide.

As a result of the review, the districts submitted changes to their data and explained the reasons for the decline. Based upon its review of the information submitted by the districts, the department will:

  • Determine if additional information is needed;
  • Conduct verification activities;
  • Assess the need for direct technical assistance in incident reporting;
  • Assess the general need for further clarification on reporting criteria; and
  • Summarize strategies and actions taken by districts that influenced the decline and disseminate this information to all districts.

PROGRAMMATIC RESPONSE

New Jersey’s schools are fundamentally safe places, despite perceptions cultivated by 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. School districts, county agencies and state agencies have coordinated to implement programmatic responses that foster school safety at all points of the continuum from prevention through crisis response and recovery. Comprehensive responses include the following: developing clearly defined codes of student conduct; assessing the immediate school surroundings, as well as the social and emotional learning climates of the school communities; developing comprehensive school safety and security plans that incorporate clearly defined procedures and mechanisms for responding to and recovering from emergencies and crises; implementing research-based prevention and intervention programs; and planning for the effective use of available school and community resources.

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 security and reduce school violence and related problems.

A. Policy

1. Administrative Code

The chapter of administrative code titled Programs to Support Student Development (N.J.A.C. 6A:16), which was first adopted by the State Board of Education in April 2001, set forth minimum standards for district boards of education in establishing policies and procedures and in operating programs to support the social, emotional and physical development of students. In August of 2005, the State Board of Education adopted new regulations on student conduct as subchapter seven (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7, Student Conduct) within N.J.A.C. 6A:16, as well as technical amendments to the subchapters on school safety, law enforcement operations for substances, weapons and safety and intervention and referral services. Additionally, all of the existing regulations in N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Development currently are being reviewed for readoption in 2006.

2. Student Conduct

A working group was established within the NJDOE to review student conduct in response to issues that were raised during the public comments provided in 2001 on N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development, which included a basic framework for codes of student conduct (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.1). 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 range of student conduct concerns and possible remedies for department consideration. The following recommendations have been or are in the process of being implemented:

  • Recommendation: Develop a regulatory framework for student conduct.
  • Status: In response to this recommendation, a student discipline code discussion paper was approved by the State Board of Education for dissemination and comment in 2003. In August 2005, amended regulations on student conduct were adopted by the State Board of Education at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7. These student conduct regulations currently are being reviewed under the readoption of N.J.A.C. 6A:16, which is scheduled for the fall of 2006
  • Recommendation: Convene 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.
  • Status: As a result of this recommendation, the NJDOE convened the advisory panel, and the findings of the panel have been taken into consideration, as appropriate, in amendments proposed to the regulations on alternative education in N.J.A.C. 6A:16-9, as part of the readoption of N.J.A.C. 6A:16.
  • Recommendation: The NJDOE is considering implementation of the remaining recommendations from the student conduct policy forums that are described below,
    • Develop or revise guidance documents and publications.
    • Provide training and technical assistance.
    • Increase ongoing interagency and intra-agency collaboration.

Status: These recommendations will be addressed subsequent to the readoption of proposed N.J.A.C.6A:16-7, Student Conduct, in 2006.

3. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

As a condition for receiving funds under the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), the NJDOE was mandated to establish and implement a statewide policy requiring that students who attend persistently dangerous schools or who become victims of violent criminal offenses while in or on the school grounds that they attend be allowed to transfer to a safe public school within the local educational agency (Unsafe School Choice Option, Title IX, Part E, Subpart 2, Section 9532 of the No Child Left Behind Act). The NJDOE’s policy was adopted by resolution by the State Board of Education in June 2003. All local educational agencies receiving NCLB funds must comply with the provisions of the policy, as appropriate.

In November 2004 and February 2005, the Unsafe School Choice Option Policy Advisory Panel was reconvened to review the existing policy and consider modifications. The proceedings of the meetings and other input regarding the policy are under consideration by the department.

4. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

To assist school districts in developing the required harassment, intimidation and bullying policies (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.), the authorizing statute required the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to develop and issue a model policy applicable to grades kindergarten through twelve. The NJDOE’s model policy was developed and disseminated in December 2002 and updated in the spring of 2006 and can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/parents/bully.htm. Additionally, in August 2005, the State Board of Education adopted regulations on intimidation, harassment and bullying (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7.9) in support of the authorizing statute. The regulations can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/code/current/title6a/chap16.pdf.

5. School Violence Awareness Week

The NJDOE has provided guidelines and information to local boards of education for use in planning the activities that are required in observance of School Violence Awareness Week (N.J.S.A. 18:36-5.1) for each year that the requirements have been in effect. The guidelines in effect for the 2005-06 school year can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/students/safety/violence.htm. In August 2005, the State Board of Education adopted regulations in support of School Violence Awareness Week. The regulations can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/code/current/title6a/chap16.pdf.

6. Public Hearings on Violence and Vandalism

For each year the requirement for schools to conduct annual public hearings on violence and vandalism (N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46) has been in effect, the NJDOE has provided guidelines and information to local boards of education for complying with the statute and submitting the required documentation to the NJDOE. The guidelines in effect for the 2005-06 school year can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/students/safety/violence.htm.

7. Alternative Education

Regulations for alternative education programs have been adopted as Subchapter nine of N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development. The provisions within N.J.A.C. 6A:16-9 regulate the application process and approval criteria for the operation of alternative education programs. The department disseminated a revised guidance document titled A Guide and Application for the Operation and Approval of Alternative Education Programs in the 2003-04 school year, available at www.nj.gov/njded/students/safety/behavior/programs.shtml.

A working group was established in December 2004 to review alternative education program requirements and propose modifications to strengthen this delivery system. The NJDOE is considering the recommendations of this group during its comprehensive review of N.J.A.C. 6A:16, which sunsets in May 2006.

B. Prevention and Intervention Programs

1. Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Program

The capacity for local school response to behavioral, social-emotional and health problems 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 (Title IV-A of the No Child Left Behind Act), a total of $7.7 million dollars was provided through the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) to local districts for this purpose in 2005-06. NJDOE, however, is anticipating a 21 percent reduction in the funding provided under the SDFSCA for the 2006-07 school year. This funding decrease will dramatically reduce the fiscal resources available to schools and the NJDOE for responding to school safety and security needs.

As a result of the use of these funds, school district data reported to the NJDOE indicate that educators have put in place emergency and crisis management plans and have purchased security devices to provide a surveillance capacity for protecting against intruders.  They also have adopted specific programs (e.g., conflict resolution) to enhance their abilities to intervene early when students are disruptive. Data on how districts spend their SDFSCA funds indicate that some have shifted away from instruction in violence prevention toward expenditures intended to prevent the more serious types of violence, such as the prevention of illegal gang activity and the use of security personnel (see Table 8). 

Table 8: Number of Districts Using SDFSCA Funds for Violence Prevention

Expenditure Category

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

Violence Prevention Instruction

312

308

294

Conflict Resolution/ Peer Mediation

349

361

336

Illegal Gang Prevention

57

65

69

Security Equipment

40

42

42

Security Personnel

20

19

29

2. Homeland Security Grant

The NJDOE has been awarded a Homeland Security grant from the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety for the 2005-2007 school years. Funding from this grant is being used to support two key school safety and security goals. The first goal is to increase the critical infrastructure protection of school facilities and school staff and students by identifying and reducing vulnerabilities, preventing acts of terrorism and other traumas and maximizing response to and recovery from terrorism, sudden traumatic loss and other emergencies and crises. The second goal is to provide training and technical assistance services to school staff for the efficient and effective response to terrorism, sudden traumatic loss and other emergencies and crises.

The NJDOE has hired two safety and security planners under the grant and used state funds to support one project manager position to coordinate and provide supportive services to schools for the planning, coordination and maintenance of safety and security for students, staff and school facilities. The NJDOE staff will provide technical support to school staff for the implementation of the best practices described in the School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines and address priority safety and security needs of schools identified by the NJDOE, in cooperation with the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force (DSPTF), as a result of the review of baseline data provided on the School Safety and Security Checklist (SSSC) by school and law enforcement officials. The NJDOE staff will also assess school safety and security needs based, in part, on continuous analysis of the SSSC data, conduct school site visits, provide direct technical assistance to schools statewide and provide statewide, regional and local training to educators on safety and security issues. In addition, the NJDOE staff will collaborate with the Office of the Attorney General, the Office of Emergency Management, the Office of Counterterrorism, the State Police, and other state, county and local agencies, as well as other critical infrastructure sectors identified by the DSPTF for the statewide coordination of services designed to support school safety and security.

3. Core Curriculum Content Standards

New regulations for Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education (N.J.A.C. 6A:8) were adopted by the State Board of Education in April 2004. These standards contain specific indicators under Standards 2.1 (Wellness - health promotion concepts and skills), 2.2 (Integrated Skills - health enhancing personal, interpersonal and life skills) and 2.4 ( Human Relationships and Sexuality – physical, emotional and social aspects of human relationships and sexuality) that require public schools to teach violence prevention skills, including media resistance, peer pressure resistance, peer leadership, problem-solving, conflict resolution and stress management. Additionally, Standard 9.2: Consumer, Family, and Life Skills, addresses significant related areas, such as critical thinking, self- management, interpersonal communication, character development, ethics and safety.  Each of these strands focuses on conflict management, problem-solving, personal responsibility and cooperation.

The standards provide a strong focus on bullying and violence prevention strategies, with a clear emphasis on character education.  Topical strands infused in each of the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education help teachers locate specific content and skills related to violence prevention. The standards are further defined by progress indicators at grades two, four, six, eight and twelve.

The Curriculum Framework for Health and Physical Education (1999), which can be found at http://www.state.nj.us/njded/frameworks/chpe/index.html, includes 140 suggested sample lessons for educators to use to address topics related to violence prevention and positive social and emotional development.  The New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education provide an age-appropriate and culturally sensitive focus that helps students develop the knowledge and skills that lead to healthy, active lifestyles.

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:16-8) 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 comprehensive Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services; a set of I&RS Program Materials, which include a four-part series prepared in VHS videotape and DVD formats, an I&RS program flyer and a CD-ROM containing an electronic file of the Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services and other supportive materials; and the provision of training programs to prepare building-based teams to implement the I&RS regulations, as well as to supplement their knowledge and skills regarding effective team, intervention and instructional practices.

The I&RS Program Materials described above, which updated the original four-part videotape series disseminated in 1999, were distributed to all school districts in September 2005. The Resource Manual, which originally was distributed to districts in February 2000, was reissued in August 2005. Approximately 600 building-based teams have been trained since April 2000. In addition to providing annual training of building-based teams, 240 individual school staff who were added to their school’s I&RS teams were provided training in the 2004-06 school years. A supplemental training program designed specifically for trained I&RS team members was delivered to 60 I&RS team members in 2005-06. Plans are under way to develop additional supplemental training programs that are expressly designed to address the ongoing professional development needs of I&RS teams, in accordance with the provisions of N.J.A.C. 6A:16-8.2(a)4 and 6A:16-8.2(a)5.

5. Positive Student Discipline Reform Demonstration Project

The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) has entered 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 three-year project is to create safety and order in participating schools without unnecessarily excluding students. The project involves 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. In project year one (2003-04), all three districts completed needs assessments, provided orientations for district staff and developed program plans in consultation with a representative group of school and community members. In project year two (2004-05), the participating districts began implementing program plans, including leadership development for administrators and selecting and implementing comprehensive frameworks to support programs currently in place. In project year three (2005-06), participating districts are fully implementing program plans, including the provision of leadership training for administrators, actively using project data to systematically assess needs and enhance project implementation and completing final project evaluation. It is anticipated that final project findings will be disseminated to all school districts in 2007.

6. Social Norms Project

In the fall of 2005, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Center for Addiction Studies (CAS) at Rowan University to administer, implement and evaluate a project that uses the social norms approach for reducing the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs among students in ten New Jersey high schools, and to reduce bullying, harassment and intimidation behavior among students in eight New Jersey middle schools. The project is based, in part, upon the successful research-based project of the New Jersey Higher Education Consortium that was designed to alter social norms and behavior regarding the use of harmful substances among students in participating institutions of higher education.

Reports from the social norms research literature indicate that, regardless of the actual incidence and prevalence of a problem, perception of the pervasiveness of the problem behavior typically exceeds the actual problem. Therefore, the goal of the Social Norms Project is to use established social psychological principles concerning the influence of group norms on individual behavior to reduce student alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and bullying, harassment and intimidation behavior in the participating schools, as appropriate.

Under the Social Norms Project, CAS will perform assessments to determine actual norms regarding alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and bullying, harassment and intimidation behavior in participating schools, as appropriate, and develop and implement marketing and communications campaigns to inform students, school staff, parents and other community members of these norms. It is anticipated that as the actual behavioral norms become established, the incidence and prevalence of student alcohol, tobacco and other drug use and bullying, harassment and intimidation behavior will be reduced.

7. Developing Safe and Civil Schools: A Social and Emotional Learning Initiative

Reports of the research literature make it clear that when social-emotional and academic learning both become part of schooling, students are more likely to remember or use what they are taught. Findings from the research literature also indicate that schools can benefit from applying proven strategies for enhancing academic and social-emotional learning, which have been demonstrated to improve academic achievement, as well as reduce high-risk behavior. In response to these important findings, the NJDOE has entered into a memorandum of understanding with Rutgers University to provide technical support to schools in fully integrating social-emotional learning (SEL) throughout their educational programs.

a primary tenet of the project is that successful performance of students can be enhanced through supportive SEL programs and services that are designed to increase coordination and decrease program and service gaps and overlap among SEL-related and other educational initiatives. To accomplish this end, the various programs and services in schools related to student conduct (e.g., substance abuse prevention, violence, vandalism and bullying prevention, school safety) and positive youth development (e.g., service learning, character education) will be optimized in their individual effectiveness and will be synergistically linked. The training, technical assistance and other supportive services and resources provided or coordinated by Rutgers University under this project are intended to assist school staff in organizing the various resources, programs and services to create strong SEL conditions designed to result in reduced at-risk student behavior, the development of positive learning climates and improved academic performance among students in participating schools.

Low-performing non-Abbott school districts will be selected for participation in this initiative. Two school districts will develop and implement a district-wide SEL model, and eight school buildings from different school districts will participate in the development and implementation of a school-wide SEL model. Working relationships among participating school districts and school staff, experts from the national Collaborative for Academic Social and Emotional Learning and New Jersey experts with demonstrated experience in creating well-coordinated and effective SEL conditions in schools, will be established. Participating school districts and schools will receive assistance in selecting, developing and implementing projects based on findings derived from a needs assessment. Projects will be designed to have a measurable impact on school violence, school climate and student academic performance. Information on project findings will be made available to all school districts upon conclusion of the project.

8. Character Education Initiative

New Jersey was the first state in the nation to provide state aid funding to implement character education programs and services through the New Jersey Character Education Partnership (NJCEP) initiative. For the fifth year (2004-05) of the initiative, the Governor’s FY2005 budget provided $4.75 million for school district character education program implementation and expansion. The purpose of NJCEP is to help public school educators 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. The public school districts that participate in the initiative submitted data along with a narrative on program outcomes. A report of project outcomes is available online at: http://www.nj.gov/njded/chared/outcomes.

In 2005, the national Character Education Partnership (CEP) awarded 22 New Jersey schools with promising practices citations for their outstanding character education programs. Additionally, CEP presented one New Jersey school with the National School of Character Finalist Award for demonstrating outstanding character education initiatives that yield positive results in student behavior, school climate and academic performance. This national recognition demonstrates the success of the sustained emphasis New Jersey has brought to character education over the past nine years.

9. New Jersey Center for Character Education

In 2002, New Jersey was one of only five States to receive a four-year federal grant award under the Partnerships in Character Education grant program (Title V, Part D of the No Child Left Behind Act). Under this grant, New Jersey created the New Jersey Center for Character Education (NJCCE) at the Center for Applied Psychology in the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University. During the 2004-05 school year, the NJCCE continued to provide in-depth technical assistance and support and opportunities for professional development and skill enhancement to public and nonpublic schools throughout the state. The creation of the NJCCE has provided the leadership necessary to advance New Jersey’s character education effort to a new level by providing guidance for schools to adopt programs and strategies that have been proven to be effective.

10. 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 have been provided during the 2004-2006 school years: delivery of gang prevention and education to students in Newark, Trenton and Camden at high risk for involvement in gang activity, utilizing a curriculum developed in Phase I of the project; production of a VHS videotape program introducing the curriculum and distribution of the program to schools and community organizations; guidance to assist community-based organizations in establishing community "safety nets" for gang-involved youth who are under the jurisdiction of the JJC’s transitional services; development and distribution of gang awareness and resource booklets to schools and community organizations; implementation of regional gang awareness conferences for school personnel, community members and organizations; and delivery of professional development programs on gang issues for JJC staff, county youth services commission staff and members, county juvenile detention center personnel and juvenile peer facilitators.

11. Student Support Services Planning and Development Project

Under this project, supportive services were provided to 10 school districts interested in refining or reforming their student services programs. Technical support services were provided 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 was the self-study undertaken by each district, which encompassed 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 2002, offered each participating district an 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 the evaluation, review and revision of how student services were 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 resulting from the initiative and best practices in student support services were showcased at a statewide conference in May 2004.

12. 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 sixth year of funding to the Division of Addiction Services (DAS), New Jersey Department of Human Services, to expand the Peer Transitions Project in 2005-06 by including new schools in the project while maintaining support for schools already participating in the project. Utilizing learning stations, peer educators provide students with information and facilitate discussions on issues (e.g., substance abuse, prevention, gang avoidance, bullying prevention, coping) that will help students make successful transitions to high school. The project, in part, builds upon the existing network of peer leadership programs in New Jersey that has been established under the New Jersey Middle School Peer-to-Peer Program, which was initiated as a collaborative effort among NJDOE, DAS, the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse and the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety.

13. Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth

Under a dedicated two-year grant from the United States Department of Education, the NJDOE has implemented a number of activities designed to provide suspended and expelled students with meaningful activities to occupy their time during their absences from school; to help them avoid negative behaviors; and to teach them the value of service to others and their communities. In project year one (2003-04), the NJDOE disseminated to school districts and community organizations the following materials: a resource manual titled Time Out for Service: A Manual on Community Service for Suspended and Expelled Students; a VHS videotape program highlighting the proceedings of a conference that was held in the spring of 2004 to provide information to school staff and community members on the use of community services for suspended and expelled students; and a variety of publications on topics related to community services.

In project year two (2004-05), the NJDOE partnered with Rutgers University (RU) and the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) for the provision of direct services to a total of 20 schools to help them coordinate and implement programs under which students who are suspended, expelled or otherwise removed from school perform community service. RU and UMDNJ collaborated on the provision of a statewide conference in the spring of 2005. In the fall of 2005, UMDNJ disseminated to all school districts a toolkit designed to facilitate program adoption, implementation and sustainability, which included training modules for school administrators, community service coordinators and community service organizations, sample correspondence for all aspects of the program, guidelines for identifying appropriate community service site providers and evaluation guidelines. In the fall of 2005, RU disseminated to all school districts a documentary program in DVD format on the development of their community service projects, including information on the establishment of school teams, the training of school team members and the development and implementation of the community service programs.

14. Drug Abuse Education Fund Project

As required under N.J.S.A. 2C:43-3.5 and N.J.S.A..54A:9-25.12 et seq., a Drug Abuse Education Fund 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 to students in grades kindergarten through twelve on a statewide basis. Under the appropriation for these statutory provisions, funds have been provided annually to D.A.R.E. New Jersey, Inc. for the provision of substance abuse education to students in New Jersey schools.

C. Professional Development and Technical Support

1. Title IV-A and USCO Training and Technical Assistance Project

In the fall of 2005, the NJDOE entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Center for Applied Psychology at Rutgers University to assist the NJDOE in fulfilling the statutory requirements of Title IV-A (the Federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act) and the Unsafe School Choice Option (Title IX, Part E, Subpart 2, Section 9532) of the No Child Left Behind Act. The Title IV-A and Unsafe School Choice Option Training and Technical Assistance Project is intended to help the NJDOE increase its capacity for providing schools and NJDOE staff with technical assistance, training services and support for resource development for the successful implementation of the requirements under Title IV-A and the NJDOE’s Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO) Policy.

Under the project, the Center for Applied Psychology will provide technical assistance, training services and support for resource development to assigned NJDOE staff and local educational agencies (LEAs) in implementing the provisions of Title IV-A. The Center for Applied Psychology also will support NJDOE staff and assist personnel from "persistently dangerous schools," "early warning schools" and special services schools identified under the USCO Policy in the development of corrective action plans or school safety plans, as appropriate. The plans are intended to be designed to reduce the number of incidents of violence in the identified schools, as determined based on the data collected in the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System.

2. School Safety and Security

In its role as the lead agency of the school sector of the Infrastructure Advisory Committee of the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, the NJDOE developed and disseminated a comprehensive manual, titled School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines to all chief school administrators in September 2004. The manual, disseminated as a secure document, is designed to provide in-depth guidance for the establishment of plans, procedures and mechanisms for responding to emergencies and crises, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.1, School Safety and Security Plans. The manual also offers information on conducting risk analyses and implementing comprehensive strategies for preventing and intervening with high-risk threats and for promoting safe school learning environments. Training will be offered to school staff in support of the manual.

In support of the School Safety Manual, interdepartmental meetings were held to develop a uniform checklist that was used to help schools identify key safety and security elements.  Training on the use of the checklist and the associated database was provided to the county and district-level staff. Schools used the checklist to perform self-assessments to identify areas of vulnerability and other needs.  Additionally, this checklist was used by state and local law enforcement officials to conduct on-site audits designed to assess the current state of security in our schools, as directed by the Governor.  Almost all of the audits have been completed. School districts will be able to provide status updates on their school safety and security plans once the audits are completed and the database of the results of the survey is available for review. The results of the checklist will be used to assist with statewide security planning.

3. Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Promising Programs Showcase

One of the responsibilities of administering the federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA) funds is to support the requirement for school districts to adopt programs that have a scientific research base, as a way of implementing the Principles of Effectiveness that schools are mandated to use as the basis for planning and selecting programs funded under SDFSCA. The NJDOE sponsored a statewide conference in May 2005 for developers of programs designated as promising by the United States Department of Education (USDOE) to showcase their programs to New Jersey educators. The presentations and conference proceedings were recorded and copies in VHS videotape and DVD formats were disseminated to all New Jersey school districts in the fall of 2005.

4. Community Services for Suspended and Expelled Youth Conference

Under a dedicated two-year grant from the United States Department of Education, the NJDOE provided a statewide conference in May 2005 addressing the use of community services for students suspended or expelled from school. A documentary program in DVD format was distributed to all districts in the fall of 2005.

5. Student Conduct

The NJDOE has provided training in the new regulations on student conduct (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7), adopted in August 2005, in collaboration with the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the New Jersey Association of School Administrators and the New Jersey Association of Federal Program Administrators.

6. Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

The NJDOE collaborated on the Cyber-bullying Conference sponsored by the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety in the fall of 2005. An updated version of the 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., was posted in the spring of 2006 at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/parents/bully.htm.

7. Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System (EVVRS)

Regional trainings in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years reached approximately 750 school staff with EVVRS reporting responsibilities. The goal of the training was to assist districts in fulfilling their obligation to report acts of violence (N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46 and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.3). Specifically, training was provided in the federal and state requirements related to the EVVRS, the accurate reporting of offenses consistent with the published definition of the offenses and the use of the electronic reporting system.

8. Intervention and Referral Services

Teams comprising of school staff from approximately 600 schools have been trained in the establishment of building-based teams of intervention and referral services (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-8) since April 2000, with 120 of the schools receiving training in the 2005-06 school year. In addition to providing annual team training, 120 school staff that were added to their school’s intervention and referral services (I&RS) teams were trained in 2005-06. Orientations to the I&RS regulations and best practices for I&RS implementation also were provided to school staff at three separate school or county-sponsored events in the 2005-06 school year.

9. Unsafe School Choice Option Policy

Training was provided to assigned NJDOE staff for supporting schools identified as persistently dangerous or in early warning status, as well as special services schools identified under the Unsafe School Choice Option (USCO) Policy. Assigned NJDOE staff provided ongoing technical assistance to schools identified as persistently dangerous or in early warning status in the fulfillment of their obligations under the USCO Policy, including the development and implementation of corrective action plans and school safety plans.

10. Technical Assistance

The NJDOE continues to provide technical support programs and services for the implementation of the regulations addressing school safety, violence, substance abuse and health services found in N.J.A.C. 6A:16, Programs to Support Student Development and related statutes. The department provides assistance to schools in the effective implementation of the Principles of Effectiveness required under the Federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act. Additionally, the NJDOE will provide a workshop on the effective coordination and targeted use of funds under the No Child Left Behind Act at the annual conference of the New Jersey Association of Federal Project Administrators in the spring of 2006.

D. Publications and Materials

1. Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services

In support of the Intervention and Referral Services regulations (N.J.A.C. 6A:16-8), the publication titled Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services was reprinted and made available to districts in August 2005. The manual is posted at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/students/irs/. A new package of I&RS Program Materials was distributed to all school districts in September 2005. The following materials are included in the package:

  • A four-part series prepared in VHS videotape and DVD formats, which addresses the following topics – Program Overview (Part 1), Planning and Organizing the Program (Part 2), The I&RS Process (Part 3) and Innovations and Best Practices (Part 4);
  • A flyer, which contains concise descriptions of the I&RS technical support materials made available by the NJDOE; and
  • A CD-ROM containing an electronic file of the Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services, sample forms and other supportive information and resources for I&RS teams.

2. 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. The guide describes a continuum of strategies and activities that are vital to the establishment of safe and secure educational environments, including the physical makeup of school buildings, prevention and intervention programs and services, community involvement and responses in the aftermath of a crisis. It is posted at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/students/safety/schools/policy.shtml.

3. School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines

In response to a directive from the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, the NJDOE, under the guidance of the Infrastructure Advisory Committee - School Sector, developed and disseminated a comprehensive manual titled School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines to all chief school administrators in September 2004. The manual, disseminated as a secure document, is designed to provide a broad range of information, including prevention and early intervention programs and strategies, community-wide planning and coordination, risk assessment strategies, target hardening of school facilities and in-depth guidance for the establishment of plans, procedures and mechanisms for responding to emergencies and crises, in accordance with N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.1. The NJDOE intends to disseminate a second generation version of the manual in the 2006-07 school year.

4. Safe, Disciplined and Drug-Free Schools Promising Programs Showcase

This conference, which took place in May 2005, featured developers of programs throughout the country designated as promising by the United States Department of Education. The presentations and conference proceedings were recorded by New Jersey Network, and copies of the program in VHS videotape and DVD formats were disseminated to all New Jersey school districts in the fall of 2005.

5. Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying

To assist school districts in developing and adopting harassment, intimidation and bullying policies, as mandated under N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq., the NJDOE was required to develop and issue a model policy applicable to grades kindergarten through twelve. The model policy, which was updated in the spring of 2006, can be found at: http://www.state.nj.us/njded/parents/bully.htm.

6. 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, which included sections on weapons offenses, bias crimes and sexual harassment. Requirements for the memorandum are set forth in the 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 and Law Enforcement Working Group will be proposing revisions to the memorandum to make it consistent with new statutes and regulations and to clarify and update issues and procedures, as appropriate. The model memorandum of agreement can be found at: www.state.nj.us/lps/dcj/pdfs/agree.pdf.

7. Emergency and Crisis Planning for Schools

The NJDOE consulted with the University of Medicine and Dentistry’s Center for BioDefense in the development of a program in DVD format titled Emergency and Crisis Planning for Schools. The program was disseminated to all school districts in the fall of 2005.

8. Gangs, Guns and Drugs

The NJDOE collaborated with the New Jersey Department of Law and Public Safety in the development of a program in VHS videotape format titled Gangs, Guns and Drugs. The program was distributed to all school districts in the spring of 2005.

E. Planning, Collaboration and Coordination

1. Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force

In response to the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Governor McGreevey created the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, pursuant to P.L.2001, ch.246, the Domestic Security Preparedness Act, which is chaired by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) and includes representatives from appropriate state agencies. As a result of task force planning, a committee was formed to specifically address the unique needs of schools for responding to potential attacks and threats. The Infrastructure Advisory Committee - School Sector - made recommendations to be considered for implementation in the 2004-05 school year, including the development of a publication titled School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines. The manual was disseminated to all chief school administrators as a secure document in September 2004. The NJDOE plans to coordinate the review and development of the second generation version of the School Safety Manual with the school sector committee for dissemination in 2006-07.

In support of the School Safety Manual, interdepartmental meetings, including representatives from the NJDOE, OAG, State Police, state and county offices of counterterrorism, state and county offices of emergency management, county prosecutors, county superintendents and other state agencies, were held to develop a uniform checklist that was used to help schools identify and assess needs regarding key safety and security elements. Additionally, the checklist was used by state and local law enforcement officials to conduct on-site audits designed to assess the current status of security in all New Jersey schools, as directed by the Governor. 

2. Collaboration with Mental Health Agencies and Student SupportStaff

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 and how they utilize existing student support services staff. The effective use of student support services staff and the development of cooperative relationships between them and mental health providers are important components of schools' responses to violence. Therefore, the NJDOE continues to forge links among New Jersey schools, mental health and other human service and health providers to establish effective working relationships, identify areas of concern and consider strategies for improving the delivery of student support services.

Specifically, NJDOE staff continues to serve on the New Jersey Department of Human Services, Division of Mental Health Services’ statewide infrastructure advisory group on mental health services. NJDOE staff also collaborate with the leadership of the Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey (ASAPNJ), the New Jersey Association of School Psychologists (NJASP) and the New Jersey School Counselors Association (NJSCA). Representatives of these organizations serve on advisory committees for NJDOE projects, including the Developing Safe and Civil Schools: A Social Emotional Learning Initiative, the Unsafe School Choice Option Policy, the Social Norms Project and the Positive Student Discipline Reform Demonstration Project.

3. Other Collaborative Partnerships

The NJDOE aims to continue to collaborate with the following groups: the New Jersey School Boards Association, New Jersey Association of School Administrators, New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, New Jersey Association of Federal Program Administrators, New Jersey Education Association, New Jersey Pupil Services Administrators Association, New Jersey School Counselors Association, Association of Student Assistance Professionals of New Jersey, New Jersey Association of Mental Health Agencies, New Jersey Association of School Psychologists, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ), including the Violence Institute of New Jersey at UMDNJ and the County Traumatic Loss Coalitions administered by UMDNJ, the Departments of State, Health and Senior Services, Human Services and Law and Public Safety, including the Juvenile Justice Commission and the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force and affiliated committees and work groups, the Administrative Offices of the Court, the Attorney General’s Education and Law Enforcement Working Group, and other organizations, associations and agencies.

The department continues to be represented on the following organizations and their subgroups: Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse, Governor’s Advisory Council on Domestic Violence, Governor’s Advisory Council on Sexual Violence, New Jersey Association of County Youth Services Coordinators, Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Committee and School-based Probation Committee, New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention and intends to continue to support the various collaborative initiatives described above in the Programmatic Response section of this report.

F. Research, Evaluation and Data Collection

1. Evaluation/Data Collection Projects

The Office of Program Support Services in the NJDOE conducts evaluations of its major initiatives and grant programs. During the 2004-05 school year, the office issued a contract to conduct technical analysis of the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System data. The draft report is under review. Collection of The performance data on all LEA recipients of funds under the Safe and Drug Free Schools and Communities Act (Title IV-A of NCLB) for the 2004-05 school year has been completed. Analysis of the data is in progress and the final report will be posted to the department’s Web site.

Work began in 2004-05 on all five objectives of the Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention Data Grant Project, a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education to improve the use of data in the management of drug and violence prevention programs: the technological enhancement of the program plan section of the Title IV-A portion of the No Child Left Behind electronic application; the development of an EVVRS data warehouse; the production of a new videotape on reporting incidents on the EVVRS; a report containing recommendations on enhancing participation in student surveys about at-risk behavior; and broadening the use of data and participation in the drug and violence planning process at the county and local levels. An interdepartmental project advisory committee met in October 2004 and made suggestions on the means to accomplish many of the tasks associated with each objective.

2. New Jersey Student Health Survey

In 2004-05, the NJDOE conducted the bi-annual New Jersey Student Health Survey among a sample of public school students. This survey, which is based on the Youth Risk Behavior Survey sponsored by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), asks students to self-report on their actions and attitudes in six areas that are highly related to preventable, premature injury or illness. Concerning violence, the survey includes questions on carrying a weapon, carrying a gun, having been in a physical fight, having personal property stolen or damaged at school, having been hit by a boyfriend or girlfriend, having been forced to have sex and trying to commit suicide. The findings are used by state agencies for planning, program assessment and federal reporting. Reports of findings are distributed to school staff and published on the NJDOE Web site. The spring 2005 survey was administered in two versions, one for grades 7-8 and another for grades 9-12. The department, through its contractor, the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers University, was successful in securing a 61 percent net response rate for the high schools and 52 percent for middle schools. Given the difficulty in securing parental permission under a requirement of active parental consent, these response rates are commendable. The final report will be available in the summer of 2006.

3. School Safety and Security Checklist Audits

In response to the Governor’s directive for law enforcement and school officials to conduct on-site safety and security audits of all school buildings in New Jersey, the School Safety and Security Checklist (SSSC) database was created to capture the checklist responses. The long-term goal for the database is to provide the NJDOE and other state and county agencies with information for determining the needs of schools for safety and security planning and providing direction for school safety and security policy and funding decisions.

The NJDOE has administrative and program management responsibilities for overseeing the SSSC database. The NJDOE is currently analyzing the results of over 3,400 SSSC audits. Based on the analysis, NJDOE staff will conduct site visits and provide direct technical assistance to public and nonpublic schools, as appropriate, to support the development and implementation of best practices, as well as corrective actions for safety and security vulnerabilities. With the help of the New Jersey Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force, its member agencies and other state, county and local partners, the NJDOE also will use the data to make recommendations for minimum school and safety security standards for New Jersey schools.


FUTURE DIRECTIONS

A. Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act Program

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act (SDFSCA), Title IV-A of the No Child Left Behind Act, is the NJDOE’s primary source of dedicated funding for the promotion, implementation and support of best practices for safety, security and substance abuse prevention and intervention in New Jersey schools. The NJDOE is anticipating a 21 percent reduction in the funding provided under the SDFSCA for the 2006-07 school year. This funding decrease will dramatically reduce the fiscal resources available to schools for responding to school safety and security needs. Specifically, the NJDOE projects a reduction of $1.6 million in funds available to schools in 2006-07, from a total of $7.7 million available in 2005-06 to a total of $6.1 million available in 2006-07. Additionally, the NJDOE expects a reduction of $.5 million in the funds used to fulfill its obligations set forth in the Title IV-A statute and to support the preponderance of the statewide initiatives described in the Programmatic Response section of this report, as well as new activities, assignments and emergent issues.

B. School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines

The NJDOE is revising the current School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines. In support of this effort, the NJDOE reconvened the Domestic Security Preparedness Task Force Infrastructure Advisory Committee – School Sector in March 2006. The second generation version of the School Safety Manual will include emergent best practices, new methods for communication with state agencies and other infrastructure sectors and feedback from the experiences of school staff in the development of their comprehensive school safety and security plans. The NJDOE plans to disseminate the second generation of the School Safety Manual in the 2006-07 school year. Training will be offered to support school staff in implementing the guiding principles and best practices described in the manual.

C. Youth Gang Prevention

The NJDOE will consider appropriate youth gang prevention initiatives based upon the findings of the Governor’s Gangland Security Task Force and available resources.

D. Intervention and Referral Services

The NJDOE is considering strategies for the establishment of a coordinated system of support for school teams of Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) to help teams fulfill their responsibilities under N.J.A.C. 6A:16-8, Intervention and Referral Services. The NJDOE anticipates an expansion of the number of annual I&RS team training offerings and intends to deliver additional workshops in 2006-07 designed to extend the skills and knowledge of I&RS team members. The NJDOE also plans to update the publication titled Resource Manual for Intervention and Referral Services to include the new I&RS citations (changed from N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7 to N.J.A.C. 6A:16-8 in August 2005) that were made due to the adoption of new regulations on student conduct at N.J.A.C. 6A:16-7, and to address emerging issues related to I&RS team effectiveness. The Office of Program Support Services and the Office of Special Education of NJDOE will continue to coordinate the maintenance of an effective system of support services for students with learning, behavior and health difficulties.

E. School Safety, Security and Crisis Prevention and ResponseTraining

The NJDOE plans to provide training programs, in collaboration with other organizations, designed to help schools prepare for the prevention, response and recovery from emergencies and crises. Specific training will be provided to support school staff in implementing the guiding principles and best practices described in the second generation version of the School Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines, which will include training on threat assessment and the prevention of bullying, harassment and intimidation.

F. Student Drug Testing

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:40A-25, the NJDOE, in consultation with the New Jersey Department of Human Services, and consistent with the New Jersey Constitution and the Federal Constitution, will propose to the New Jersey State Board of Education regulations for the random testing of controlled dangerous substances, as defined in N.J.S.2C:35-2 and anabolic steroids, of the district’s students in grades nine through twelve who participate in extracurricular activities or who possess parking permits. The regulations will apply only to district boards of education that choose to adopt a policy for random student drug testing.

G. Suicide Professional Development, Instruction and Reporting

Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:16-111 et seq., the New Jersey State Board of Education plans to make appropriate revisions to the Core Curriculum Content Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education to provide for instruction in suicide prevention in the curriculum of elementary, middle and high school students. Pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:16-111 et seq., the New Jersey State Board of Education (NJSBE), in consultation with the New Jersey Youth Suicide Prevention Advisory Council established in the New Jersey Department of Human Services, will require each public school teaching staff member to complete at least two hours of instruction in suicide prevention in each professional development period, as part of the professional development requirement for public school teaching staff members established by the NJSBE. The professional development must be provided by a licensed health care professional with training and experience in mental health issues. Additionally, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 30:9A-24, the NJDOE plans to coordinate with the New Jersey Department of Human Services on the format and process for the required reports by teaching staff members who, as a result of information obtained in the course of their employment, have reasonable cause to believe that a student has attempted or completed suicide.

H. Evaluation and Data Collection Projects

Since 1992, the NJDOE has required that school districts establish and implement a coordinated system - in each school building in which general education students are served - for the planning and delivery of intervention and referral services 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 department plans to initiate a study of the Intervention and Referral Services (I&RS) program, focusing on I&RS team practices, additional training needs, local assessment of the program’s impact and an analysis of data reflective of program activity, such as types of referrals, special education placement rates and all-student suspension rates. The results of this study will be used to assist the NJDOE in planning additional training and other support for the preparation and operation of I&RS teams.

Based upon the number of complaints received by the department over the past two years and other anecdotal data, it is clear that bullying and victimization represent significant problems for schools. To gauge the extent and nature of the problem, the department plans to carry out a study of bullying and victimization on a random sample of elementary, middle and high schools. The study will determine, through the responses of the staff from the participating schools, the perception of bullying as a problem, the number of incidents of all types of bullying as compared to the statutory (N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq.) definition of harassment, intimidation and bullying that pertains to the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System, pursuant to N.J.S.A. 18A:37-13 et seq., the extent of cyber-bullying, indicators of parental concern and steps being taken locally to combat the problem. The department will analyze the results of the study to determine the need for changes in policy, guidelines and technical assistance and will share the results of the study with the school community.

Student support services staff in districts, such as substance awareness coordinators, school counselors and social workers, play key roles in the identification of problems of students that may affect their overall performance in school. The department plans to conduct a study of the practices of this professional group, problems they encounter in carrying out their roles and of their need for support from the NJDOE. The findings will be used to assist the NJDOE in making decisions regarding training programs, materials, coordination and resource allocation.

In order to make the data on the Electronic Violence and Vandalism Reporting System more accessible both to districts and the public, the department plans to deploy by the summer of 2006 the EVVRS State Incident Reporting System. The changes made to the EVVRS will increase the ease of access to the reported data, thereby facilitating the use of violence data reported over the EVVRS in prevention program planning. A prototype of the system has been developed and will be reviewed by a project advisory committee in the spring of 2006.


APPENDICES

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.


Appendix B: Summary of Changes to Incident Definitions, 2003-04

EVVRS

Violence Incidents

Simple Assault
No Change

A person attempts to cause, or purposely, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another. One needs to consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category.

Aggravated Assault
No change

A person attempts to cause serious bodily injury to another, or causes such injury purposely or knowingly, or under circumstances manifesting indifference to the value of human life, recklessly causes such injury (e.g., injury which creates a substantial risk of death, or which causes permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ). This category should be used only when the attack is very serious.

Fight

2002-03

Mutual participation in a fight involving physical violence, where there may or may not be a main offender. Does not include verbal confrontations or minor confrontations such as a shoving match. All participants may be classified as offenders, or the incident may entail offender and victim. One needs to consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category.

(New)
2003-04

Mutual engagement in a physical confrontation that may result in bodily injury to either party. Does not include verbal confrontations or a minor confrontation such as a shoving match. All participants should be classified as offenders. One needs to consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category.
See Scenario Examples 1-5.

Gang Fight/Assault
2002-03

A fight between, or an assault by, two or more members of identified groups. All participants may be classified as offenders, or the incident may entail offender and victim.

(New)
2003-04

A fight between two or more members of identified groups or an assault by two or more members of one group upon members of another group. The groups may be gangs per se, or cliques or groups of students "working together," even though the groups may not have a formal partnership. If it is a fight, then all participants should be classified as offenders (report a maximum of six offenders on the EVVRS). If the incident represents an assault of one group upon another, then the members of one group (a maximum of six) would be reported as offenders and the members of the second group (a maximum of six) would be reported as victims. If the incident was an assault of one group upon another, then, in addition, report the incident as either a "Simple Assault" or an ‘"Aggravated Assault" on the Incident Information Page, depending upon the seriousness of the bodily injury to the victims. If the incident was an assault and weapons of any kind were involved, then, in addition, report the incident as an "Assault with a Firearm" or ‘"Assault with Other Weapon" (but not as a "Simple Assault" or ‘"Aggravated Assault").
See Scenario Examples 1-5.

Robbery
No Change

Obtaining money or other materials things (regardless of value) from another by means of violence or threat of immediate violence.

Extortion
No change

Obtaining money or other material things (regardless of value) from another by means of stated or implied threat of future violence.

Sex Offense
2002-03

Subjecting another to sexual contact or exposure without consent. Consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category. (Incidents of sexual harassment are not reported as incidents of violence using the EVVRS.)

Sex Offense
(New)
2003-04

Subjecting another to sexual contact or exposure.  For the incident to be considered a sex offense, the offender must (1) intentionally touch, either directly or through clothing, the victim’s intimate parts, for the purpose of degrading or humiliating the victim;  (2) sexually arouse or sexually gratify himself or herself in view of the victim whom the offender knows to be present; (3) force or coerce the victim to participate in any contact or exposure; or (4) commit any act of sexual assault defined under N.J.S.A. 2C:14-2, which includes provisions related to the age of the victim and the offender.  Incidents of sexual assault should be reported in this category.  Intimate body parts are defined by statute (N.J.S.A. 2C:14-1e) to include "sexual organs, genital area, anal area, inner thigh, groin, buttock or breast of a person." Consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category. Note:  Sexual harassment has been added to the reporting system in 2003-2004 under the violence reporting category Harassment/Intimidation/Bullying.
See Scenario Example 11.

Threat
2002-03

Attempting by physical menace (e.g., verbal threats) to put another in fear of serious bodily injury. (Do not include bomb threats in this category.) One needs to consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category.

 

Threat
(New)
2003-04

Attempting by physical menace (e.g., verbal threats) to put another in fear of future serious bodily injury. (Do not include bomb threats in this category.) One needs to consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category.
See Scenario Examples 8-10.

Terroristic Threat
(New Category)
2003-04

Threatening to commit one of the following criminal offenses: homicide, assault, sexual assault, robbery, kidnapping or arson with the purpose of placing others in imminent fear of one of the violent acts under circumstances reasonably causing the victims(s) to believe the immediacy of the threat and the likelihood that it will be carried out. One needs to consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category.
See Scenario Examples 8-10.

Kidnapping
(New Category)
2003-04

Per N.J.S.A. 2C:13-1, unlawful removal of a student from school or school grounds or a substantial distance from where he or she is found in or on school grounds; or confinement of the victim with the purpose of holding the victim for ransom or reward as a shield or hostage, or confinement for a substantial period of time to facilitate commission of a crime or flight thereafter, or to inflict bodily injury or to terrorize the victim.
See Scenario Examples 8-10.

Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying (includes Bias Intimidation)
(New)
2003-04

Any gesture or written, verbal or physical act that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory handicap, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school -sponsored function or on a school bus and that:

a) a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of harming a student or damaging the student’s property; or b) has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students in such a way as to cause substantial disruption in, or substantial interference with, the orderly operation of the school.
See Scenario Examples 16-19.

 

Vandalism Incident

Arson
2002-03

Purposely setting fire to school district property or someone’s personal property. Arson does not include a simple act of lighting a match. Knowingly setting off a fire alarm when no fire exists, or damaging the alarm, is entered in the Damage to Property category.

Arson
(New)
2003-04

Starting a fire or causing an explosion in or on the grounds of a school thereby purposely or knowingly placing the victim or group of specified victims in danger of death or bodily injury; or with the purpose of destroying or damaging the victim’s or group of specified victims’ property that is in the school or on school grounds, a building or a structure of another. Arson does not include a simple act of lighting a match. Knowingly setting off a fire alarm when no fire exists, or damaging the alarm, is entered in the Damage to Property category.

Burglary
No change

An individual entering, or surreptitiously remaining in, a school district facility or property, or someone’s property (e.g., automobile) with the purpose to commit an offense therein.

Damage to Property
No change

Purposely, knowingly, or recklessly destroying or defacing school, contracted, or personal property, causing an economic loss due to repair or replacement. Knowingly setting off a fire alarm when no fire exists is entered in this category. Serious incidental damage to property occurring during an act of violence should be reported.

Fireworks Offense
2002-03

The possession, selling/distributing, or detonating of a self-fusing explosive device, no greater in size than two inches, and commercially sold as "fireworks."

Fireworks Offense
(New)
2003-04

The possession, selling/distributing, or detonating of a self-fusing explosive device, no greater in size than two inches, and commercially sold as "fireworks." Cherry bombs, M80s and M90s are reported in this category.

Theft
No change

Taking of the districts or a person’s belongings or property without consent.

 

Trespassing
No change

Entrance onto school property or into school by an individual without permission who knows he/she is not privileged to be on property.

Cost to LEA
No change

The estimated cost of the incident to the district. Include the cost of materials and labor (all reimbursed costs). Do not include costs of vandalism incurred by individual student or staff.

 

Substance Abuse Incident

Use
2002-03

In accordance with N.J.A.C. 6:29-6.5(a), an incident is reported for a student for whom a positive diagnosis from a medical examination indicates that the student is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, marijuana, and/or other drug (controlled dangerous substance, but not including cigarettes), or indicates that the pupil has used anabolic steroids. The student need not be caught in the act of using to be reported as "use." Report should be completed when suspected use is confirmed by positive diagnosis.

Suspected Use Confirmed
(New)
2003-04

An incident is reported as Suspected Use Confirmed when a positive determination from a medical examination indicates that the student is under the influence of alcoholic beverages, marijuana, and/or other drug (controlled dangerous substance, but not including cigarettes), or indicates that the student has used anabolic steroids. A report should be completed when suspected use is confirmed by a positive determination from a physician.

Suspected Use Not Confirmed
2003-04

Alcoholic Beverages and Controlled Dangerous Substances – Per N.J.A.C. 6A:16-4.3(a), any educational staff member or other professional to whom it appears that a student may be currently under the influence of alcohol or other drugs on school property or at a school function shall report the matter as soon as possible to the principal and the certified or non-certified school nurse or the school physician, according to the requirements of N.J.S.A 18A:40A-12.

Anabolic Steroids – Per N.J.A.C. 6A:16-4.3(b), any educational staff member or other professional who has reason to believe that a student has used or may be using anabolic steroids, that person shall report the matter as soon as possible to the principal and to the certified or non-certified school nurse or the school physician or to the substance awareness coordinator, according to the requirements of N.J.S.A. 18A:40A-12.

In each instance described above, the referring staff member shall complete the Violence, Vandalism and Substance Abuse Incident Report, according to the requirements of N.J.S.A. 18A:17-46 and N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.3, checking the field, Suspected Use – Not Confirmed. If there is a positive determination from the medical examination, indicating that the student’s alcohol or other drug use interferes with the student’s mental or physical ability to perform in school, or if it is determined that the student has used anabolic steroids, the field, Suspected Use – Not Confirmed, would be unchecked (de-selected) and the field, Suspected Use – Confirmed, would be checked (selected). Leave Suspected Use – Not Confirmed checked if there is no positive determination of use.

Possession
No Change

Student is found with alcohol, marijuana, and/or any other drug (controlled dangerous substance, including anabolic steroids, but not including cigarettes) in his/her locker or vehicle, or on his/her person. Includes possession of unauthorized prescription drugs and drug paraphernalia.

 
Distribution
No Change

Student is selling, buying, or giving alcohol or other controlled dangerous substance(s) (including anabolic steroids) to others, or employs others to do the same. The student need not be caught in the act of selling or giving. The term "distribution" includes having alcohol or drugs under circumstances where it may be inferred that the student would distribute to others. Therefore, possession of a large amount of drugs should be reported as "distribution," not as "possession."

Substance type
No Change

Click the dropdown menu to indicate which descriptor(s) characterize(s) the substance. More than one substance type may be selected.

Alcohol, Marijuana, Amphetamines, Party drug, Cocaine/Crack, Hallucinogens (e.g. LSD, PCP), Narcotics (e.g. heroin, morphine), Depressants, (e.g. barbiturates, tranquilizers), Anabolic steroids, Unauthorized prescription drugs, Inhalants, Drug paraphernalia.

 

Weapons Incident

Bomb/Offense Type
No Change

If a bomb was used in the weapons incident, check the box to indicate the type of offense. If the first or second box is checked, then an Incident Description field must be provided.

Bomb Offense and/or Use of an Explosive Device

Most commonly, greater in size than a "firework," usually encased in a wax substance, fabric, or metal canister or container, and generally electrically fused or self-fusing. Includes "Molotov cocktail" or similar device. Incidents to be reported include fake bombs, devices that do not detonate, and reported bomb threats (no Victim Information should be reported in the case of bomb threat).

Firearm Offense - **Incident Description is required.**
Select one of the three choices, defined below, from the dropdown menu.

Possession of a Firearm
No change

Having on one’s person, or in one’s locker or vehicle, a handgun or rifle. The firearm need not be loaded. (Staff should not attempt to determine if weapon is loaded.) Include air guns, but do not include "look-alike" firearms that cannot be converted to a firearm. New Jersey law classifies "look-alike firearms" as firearms; federal law, however, does not. "Look-alike firearms" are to be reported under Other Weapons (see Other Weapons Offense, below).

Assault with a Firearm
No Change

Attacking or physically harming someone by threatening with or shooting a handgun or rifle. The firearm need not be loaded. (Staff should not attempt to determine if weapon is loaded.)

Sale or Transfer of a Firearm
No Change

Selling or giving, or having in one’s possession with the intent to distribute or sell, a firearm of any kind.

Firearm type
No Change

More than one type of firearm may be checked. Note: Imitation firearms such as "look-alike" handguns are not classified as firearms by federal law; they should be included under Other Weapons (see Other Weapons Offense, below).

Other Weapons Offense Select one of the three choices, defined below, from the dropdown menu.

Assault with Other Weapon
2002-03

Attacking or physically harming someone with a knife, club, stun gun, chain, Mace, pepper spray, or other instrument of violence (other than a firearm).

Assault with Other Weapon
(New)
2003-04

Attacking or physically harming someone with a knife, club, stun gun, chain, pepper spray, or other instrument (other than a firearm) readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting serious bodily injury.

Possession of Other Weapon
2002-03

Having on one’s person or in one’s locker or vehicle, a knife, club, stun gun, chain, Mace, pepper spray, or other instrument of violence (other than a firearm) which is intended for use to cause physical injury or harm to another person or destruction of property. If Assault with Other Weapon is checked, Possession of Other Weapon cannot be checked.

Possession of Other Weapon
(New)
2003-04

Having on one’s person or in one’s locker or vehicle any weapon (other than a firearm).  A weapon is any instrument readily capable of lethal use or of inflicting bodily injury that includes, but is not limited to, knives, clubs or other bludgeons, chains, sling shots, leather bands studded with metal filings and razor blades. This category also includes stun guns and any device which projects, releases or emits tear gas or any other substance (e.g., pepper spray) intended to produce temporary discomfort or permanent injury through being vaporized or otherwise dispensed in the air. Components that can readily be assembled into a weapon also apply. An incident of possession, if not reported on the EVVRS, may, of course, still be reported in the district’s disciplinary record system.

If Assault with Other Weapon is checked, Possession of Other Weapon cannot be checked.  Consider age and developmentally appropriate behavior before using this category. See Scenario Examples 12-15.

Sale or Transfer of Other Weapon
No Change

Selling or giving, or having in one’s possession with the intent to distribute or sell, a weapon of any kind.

Other Weapon Type

Select other weapon type(s) from the dropdown menu. More than one weapon type may be checked.

2002-03

(New)
2003-04

Knife, Blade

Pin

Chain, Club

Mace, Spray

Imitation gun

Other

Knife, Blade, Razor, Scissors, Box Cutter

Pin, Sharp Pen/Pencil

Chain, Club, "Brass Knuckles"

Spray

Imitation gun, Toy gun, Paintball gun

Other


Appendix C: Data Collection Form


Appendix D: Weapons and Substance Detail

2002-03

2003-04

2004-05

Two-Year Change

N

%

N

%

N

%

N

%

Weapons
Handgun

9

0.6%

14

0.9%

7

0.5%

-2

-22%

Rifle

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0.0%

0

0%

Air Gun

72

4.5%

77

4.9%

68

4.6%

-4

-6%

Imitation Gun

91

5.7%

103

6.5%

101

6.8%

10

11%

Bomb - Exploded

0

0.0%

2

0.1%

4

0.3%

4

0%

Bomb - Unexploded

1

0.1%

1

0.1%

3

0.2%

3

200%

Knife

1,049

67.6%

1,165

73.4%

1,095

73.3%

46

4%

Pin

8

0.5%

39

2.5%

45

3.0%

37

463%

Chain

5

0.3%

16

1.0%

22

1.5%

17

340%

Pepper Spray

12

0.8%

21

1.3%

12

0.8%

0

0%

Other

304

19.6%

149

9.4%

137

9.2%

-167

-55%

Total Weapons (duplicated*)

1,551

100.0%

1,587

100.0%

1,494

100.0%

-57

-4%

Substances
Alcohol

540

18.7%

520

18.6%

546

18.8%

6

1%

Marijuana

1,883

65.3%

1,833

65.7%

1,898

65.3%

15

1%

Amphetamines

39

1.4%

26

0.9%

37

1.3%

-2

-5%

Party Drug

4

0.1%

5

0.2%

7

0.2%

3

75%

Cocaine

66

2.3%

99

3.5%

109

3.8%

43

65%

Hallucinogens

24

0.8%

23

0.8%

10

0.3%

-14

-58%

Narcotics

44

1.5%

32

1.1%

53

1.8%

9

20%

Depressants

31

1.1%

43

1.5%

41

1.4%

10

32%

Steroids

4

0.1%

2

0.1%

2

0.1%

-2

-50%

Prescription Drugs

131

4.5%

119

4.3%

125

4.3%

-6

-5%

Inhalants

5

0.2%

4

0.1%

8

0.3%

3

60%

Drug Paraphernalia

112

3.9%

85

3.0%

69

2.4%

-43

-38%

Total Substances (duplicated*)

2,883

100.0%

2,791

100.0%

2,905

100.0%

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

Appendix E: District Totals by County