From the start of this school year, West Deptford School District pooled its resources together the best it could to get the message out to students about bullying and its consequences. For at least one month, it appears that the message was heard loud and clear.
The school district's first HIB (harassment, intimidation and bullying) report was released on Tuesday night with great results, as only one incident was reported across the entire district for the month of September. This is down considerably from last year, according to Superintendent Kevin Kitchenman.
“We've educated the kids more,” he said. “Last week, we held the Week of Respect for grades K through 12. The kids are much more aware about bullying through our presentations and events last week.”
Evidence of the school district's efforts to educate the students about anti-bullying was visible from the PBSIS program unveiled at Green-Fields Elementary to the Ryan's Story presentation at West Deptford middle and high schools last week. There was also a cyberbullying presentation made to the district's fifth-graders that informed the students about the dangers of spreading information online.
“When the students were asked, 'Who here has a Facebook account?', about 85 percent of the hands in the room went up,” Kitchenman said. “When they were asked who had a Twitter account, about 90 percent of hands went up. So they talked about what you post and what it can do and also cautioned them about putting information out there for pedophiles and explaining how that could happen.”
The HIB report is encouraging for a school district that saw its middle school placed on a warning list by the state of New Jersey for having a large number of HIB incidents during the 2011-12 school year. Two weeks ago, Kitchenman said that part of that high number was due to the school district's administrators and staff becoming acquainted with and strictly enforcing the new law.
While he noted that staff training with the anti-bullying system has improved this year, Kitchenman also stated that the school district's efforts of educating the students have drastically decreased bullying across all levels.
The school district will continue to make HIB reports each month for the remainder of the school year. The total for September represents only confirmed HIB cases and did not include current cases that are under investigation. The school district has to lower its number of HIB incidents by 37 percent by the end of the school year.