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Paterson has more reported incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons, substances, bullying than any other school district in New Jersey | Paterson Times

Paterson has more reported incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons, substances, bullying than any other school district in New Jersey

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With 430 reported incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse, harassment, intimidation, and bullying in school year 2015-16, the city’s schools continued to hold the dubious distinction of having more incidents than any other school district in the state, according to a New Jersey Department of Education report made public on Monday afternoon.

There were 75 incidents of violence, 17 vandalism, 10 weapons, 153 substance abuse (drugs and alcohol), and 185 harassment, intimidation, and bullying (HIB), according to the report. The number of incidents, despite being high, are an improvement from the 2013-14 and 2014-15 school years, when the district had 454 and 494 incidents respectively.

The state report lists 430 total incidents, but the tally of the different types incidents add up to 440. More than one type of offense may be reported for a single incident, pointed out David Saenz, spokesman for the New Jersey Department of Education, citing a passage from the report.

School board president Christopher Irving said he is “alarmed and concerned” about the high numbers. However, he suggested other districts may be underreporting their numbers.

“We do a good job reporting every incident. We accurately report our information. We’re emphatic on being transparent about the challenges we have,” said Irving. Over the years, the district has encouraged its more than 50 schools to properly document and report bullying incidents.

Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the district, said the different types of incidents should not be combined into a total, but be viewed separately. “When you look at them separately, Paterson is not the highest – especially in relation to our student enrollment,” she said.

Bridgeton City with 5,750 students had the most violence in the state with 205 incidents. Newark with 58 incidents of vandalism had the most in the state. Newark and Elizabeth had the most reported incidents of weapons with 35 each. Paterson had the most substance abuse and HIB incidents in the state, according to the report.

“Just the fact we’re the highest in the entire state is something to be concerned about because we’re not the biggest district,” said Rosie Grant, executive director of the Paterson Education Fund, an education advocacy.

With 25,038 students Paterson is the third largest district in the state. It has had more reported incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons, substance abuse, harassment, intimidation, and bullying than any other district in the state for the past three school years, according to a review of state reports for the past three school years that provide district specific data.

The other two largest districts — Newark and Jersey City – had 382 and 201 total incidents in 2015-16 school year, according to the report.

Irving said the superintendent and the school board may have to develop an action plan to reduce the number of incidents. “It becomes difficult when you don’t have the money for security, substance abuse counselors, and mental health specialists, etc… That complicates things,” he said.

The district has laid off hundreds of employees in the past two school years due to budget shortfalls.

The increase in substance abuse incidents over the past several years can be connected to the reduction of substance abuse counselors. The district had 24 counselors in 2009-10 school year now it has 11.

Corallo said the district has implemented a number of initiatives over the past seven years to change culture and climate in schools. Initiatives included the implementation of New Jersey Positive Behavior Support in Schools (NJPBSIS), Paterson Effective Schools Model (a model that sets higher expectations for students and staff), and breaking up of comprehensive high schools into smaller academies.

“We need to put more supports in place to prevent these from happening,” said Grant referring to violence and vandalism. She said schools need to inculcate coping skills and encourage students to settle disputes with words rather than resorting to violence. Safe recreational spaces after school helps to reduce vandalism, she said.

Email: jay@patersontimes.com

This report was updated on Feb. 14, 2017 at 11:40 a.m.

  • MarquinhoGaucho

    Why not just expel the students who have no intention of ever learning and just coming to school to create problems and prevent the kids who want to learn from learning? In other districts they expel students, in Paterson they play "musical schools" bouncing them around and around. I bet you the student who body slammed the teacher on that youtube video is still in school . Put a zero tolerance policy and let the parents enroll the kids in a charter, pay for private school or move to another town.

    • KEN GIPSON

      Not sure what perspective you come from or see the world through but if I can please allow me to expand your perspective a little. It takes a more comprehensive examination of particular problems to find solutions typically more evident in urban communities like Paterson. An ends justifies the means view doesn't always hit the spot or take care of the problem. It is a unique set of problems that requires a means that justifies an ends approach. It's public school education ..not a vender determined charter school system. Public education systems must do more and provide more for our kids. Missions and services must be unique and specialized to address their particular needs and circumstances. It is more community based and inclusive as many of the unique problems are causative and derivative from the communities our children exist in. Parentlessness….joblessness…hopelessness…resourcelessness…leadershiplessness….empowerlessness and disenfranchisement are why our children are who they are. They are who they are. They will not change until we change their environments and communities.

      • MarquinhoGaucho

        The way you say was not been working,. They give these kids 2nd, third, 100 chances they still screw up. There was a case with a problem child who should've been expelled or in a special school, they kept him in school and took out the eye permanently of another child. The other children from good homes and parents have a right to a decent education without fear for their personal safety. The public schools are starved of resources and having these kids further creates a failing system . These kids have to learn that there are serious consequences for their actions. Expel them and deny them public assistance if they don't graduate. When they move to go to another public school than their environment and community will change.

  • http://excitablegurelle.wordpress.com Chrissy

    As a parent who dealt with a HUGE peer abuse issue rabbit hole from a crooked school district that was later reporting itself as one of the cleanest areas, I can say that these reports have to be taken like any other data, with a weathered eye. School districts self report much of this info unless pushed or there is police involvement etc. If they are reporting honestly, I commend them, give them the help and supports needed. The district I dealt with lied their tails off to the point where even one legislator said sardonically they must have the closest thing to perfection there, then, because the report was so obviously cleansed. Use our grade school science class data collection and interpretation lessons here. If they are reporting issues, then they need the supports.

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