Public and charter schools in South Jersey scored fairly well on the state’s new anti-bullying grading system, but local school officials said the implementation of the law is still a work in progress.
The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act required the education commissioner to develop a program to grade the progress of every public school in addressing bullying. The Department of Education created a 20-page self-assessment that scored eight different areas for a maximum total score of 75. Districts must post their grade on their websites by March 18.
The self-assessment measured the law’s implementation from Jan. 5, 2011 to June 30, 2013.
Data provided by the state shows most area schools scoring at least 50 out of the maximum 75. The areas of weakness were typically in the implementation of anti-bullying programs or in the training of staff, which made up about 40 points of the total score. Other criteria included reporting and investigating alleged incidents of harassment, intimidation or bullying, or HIB.
Local school officials said because they began implementing the law long before they got the state self-assessment, they did not know exactly what the state was going to want in the self-assessment, but expect to improve this year.
Each school has its own score, which is then averaged to get a district-wide score. In Egg Harbor Township, scores ranged from 60 at the high school to 73 at the smaller E.H. Slaybaugh School. The district average was a respectable 66 out of 75.
“We’re a big district and it was a lot to do,” said Egg Harbor Township Assistant Superintendent Kimberly Gruccio, who also is the district’s anti-bullying coordinator. She said while they did training for teachers and staff, the self-assessment also included volunteers and parents who participate on the School Safety Team. She said they have already begun filling in the areas where they fell short last year.
“We were brutally honest in our self-assessment,” Gruccio said. “This was the first time, and I’m proud of where we are.”
Among other K-12 districts in South Jersey, Atlantic City and Buena Regional scored a 57, Hammonton 59, Pleasantville 51, Middle Township 61, Ocean City and Millville 63, Wildwood 65, Lacey Township 55 and Vineland 49.
Locally, the top scorers were Hamilton Township, which scored a 70, Cape May City at 71, Cape May Technical High School at 74, and Northfield, which scored the maximum 75.
Northfield school Superintendent Janice Fipp said she believes the scores there reflect the fact that the district has had programs in place since the early 1990s. Current programs include Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and the Renaissance character education program.
“We look at not just bullying, but also the bystanders, so that children understand they have to get involved, even just by telling an adult,” Fipp said.
She said she does not take the district’s perfect score to mean that there are no problems, but that they are working hard to address them.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Fipp said. “We have teasing. There are altercations. But everyone at the school tries hard to focus on that balance of power that indicates bullying. We try hard to make our programs part of the school culture.”
Contact Diane D'Amico: