Incidents involving violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse in the Jefferson Township School District increased by nine cases in the 2011-12 year from the previous year, according to a report presented by District Superintendent Joseph Kraemer at Tuesday night's board of education meeting.
Kraemer said he believes the 68 incidents that took place in the district's seven schools last year are most likely because of the Harrassment, Intimidation and Bullying Law (HIB) that was enacted last year.
"I think we may have more cases because we have to report it, follow-up, and do investigations," he said.
However, Kraemer said, it is possible there were more cases of fights that altered those statistics.
Out of the different categeories, there were the most reported cases in violence, with a total of 42 incidents in the year, an increase of 13 from the previous year. The majority of these cases were in middle school, which Kraemer said is typical of that age group.
"Middle school is the primary age of that," he said. "They act out at that age a lot more. That's where the greatest incidents of bullying occur."
He noted that all acts of bullying—whether it involves physical violence or not—are deemed violent.
In substance abuse, there were 23 incidents last year, which remained constant from the previous year.
Vandalism decreased from seven to three incidents, one of which came at the district's expense.
There were no incidents involving weapons for the fourth straight year.
The 68 total incidents are the most the school has seen since the 2008-09 school year, which had 70 cases. Before that, there were 71 incidents reported in 2006-07, which is the most the district has had reported in the past nine years.
In the 2011-12 school year, 19 students were suspended in school, and 36 out of school, bringing the total suspensions up five from the previous year.
In terms of trying to bring these reports down, Kraemer said the schools are always working to create more of a positive school climate.
"We're constantly trying to educate the kids on behavior and bullying and how it hurts people, so that's an ongoing thing," he said.
In addition to last week's Week of Respect where the middle school participated in a number of activites to promote positive behavior, the middle school is involved in a year-round grant program that aims to reduce the HIB instances.
Kraemer also pointed out that the PTA has been holding a number of bullying programs as well.
"It's a culture we can change," Kraemer said, "and we're looking forward to it."