The number of reported incidents of violence, vandalism, and weapons in schools increased by 4-percent in 2015-16 school year compared to the previous academic year, according to a district report.
There were 102 incidents reported in 2015-16 school year from 98 the previous year, according to the report presented to the Board of Education on Wednesday night. Though incidents have increased by 4-percent, the number of reported incidents remain historically low – the district counted 459 incidents in 2000-01 school year. More recently, it had 138 reported incidents in 2012-13 school year, according to the report.
School board president Christopher Irving asked about the number of incidents in the current school year so far given that the district reduced its security budget at the end of the last school year.
“It’s more,” said James Smith, director of security at the Paterson Public Schools. He said he is working on compiling data for the 2016-17 school year.
Board member Emanuel Capers asked for a definition of violence. Smith said it includes fights, kidnappings, threats, exhortations, and robberies. He said there’s two types of violence: student on student and student on staff. Smith said there’s a state provided checklist that is followed to appropriately categorize incidents.
Jonathan Hodges, board member, wanted a list of incidents that were referred to police. Smith said reports have a check box that indicate whether police were notified of an incident.
Hodges said there’s a growing problem in education where students were being referred to police. He said he would like to see a list of students who were arrested due to a school incident.
“This is a growing problem. We’re turning our schools into a police state,” said Hodge.
“That’s not the case with us,” said Smith. He told board members when a juvenile is referred to law enforcement police do not fingerprint nor take mugshot of the student. A petition is filed that does not become part of their permanent record, he said. The case is then handled by family court.
Smith said state law requires certain incidents to be reported to police.
Hodges said the spike may be driven by increasing number of students seeking publicity by acting out or recording violent incidents and posting them on social media.
“There’s an exploding number of students who are acting out in this way,” he said. He said whereas such things were restricted to boys in the past, now, increasing number of girls have gotten in on the action.