New Providence School Board Fears New Anti-Bullying Law is Reducing Incident Reports
Friday, July 27, 2012 • 6:53am
NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Borough school officials expressed concern Thursday that the state’s anti-bullying law is reducing the number of reported incidents because of the reporting requirements.
The issue was raised as Assistant Superintendent for Education Services Deborah Feinberg gave the Board of Education a report on the number and type of incidents that are required to be reported under the state’s new harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) law.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30, the last six months of the school year, there were 27 incidents of violence, two acts of vandalism, and three cases of substance abuse, Feinberg said. The school conducted 28 investigations.
She said the incidents did not fall under one single category or indicate that one type of group was targeted or caused the incidents.
She said the school district responded with age- and grade-appropriate actions, including parent conferences, detentions and in-school and out-of-school suspensions.
In conferences with state officials and other Union County school districts, Feinberg said, the discussions are about how to define the incidents to determine if they qualify for action under the HIB law. She said state education officials said the best action is to discuss the definitions with the school district’s attorney.
“The real intent is developing sensitivity to the situation,” Feinberg said.
But, she said, and “unintended consequence” of the law is that there is a growing sense that incidents are being underreported.
She said in conversations with police, they also sense that parents of children who are the subject of these incidents are not coming forward because of the requirements under the law.
“So we have the opposite impact of what was intended,” said Board President John Wolak.
Feinberg said, “Police are saying incidents are not getting reported. We are hearing this statewide.”
In other business, the board heard from three graduating seniors who took part in an interning project this summer.
The students worked in businesses in their fields of interest and were deeply involved in projects.
Superintendent David Micili said the project called for students to work 30 hour as interns and provide an oral report. He said about 15 students participated.
Gabe Lyons worked in New York at a company that develops and markets video games. He said he worked on programming a new word-based game, and spoke the company’s management during the process. He said the game is going to be pitched to the management for art work support today.
If they designers are successful, the next step would be the creation of an ad budget, Lyons said.
Jessica Marriott worked for a company that develops motivational and training materials that are used in corporate training sessions. She said she helped develop the Power Point presentation. She said the internship combined two of her college interests, business and graphic design.
Kathleen Joyce, who wants to major in elementary education and special education interned with teachers at the Roberts Elementary School and shadowed three students for four weeks. She said she observed the different teaching methods employed by teachers in grades one to six, focusing on the “big differences between students and different learning levels.”
Board member Adam Smith reported that thanks to the efforts of the district’s insurance broker, instead of the 18 percent increase in health care costs budgeted for 2012-13, the district will see no increase in premiums, saving $400,000.
The amount will be factored into the 2013-14 budget, Smith said, with the plan to use the savings to reduce the tax rate associated with that budget.