More than 12,000 incidents of bullying were reported by schools during the 2011-12 school year under New Jersey’s new state anti-bullying law, the state department of education reports. But an advocate who helped draft that law said the actual number of incidents may be much higher.
The report, issued last week, acknowledges that there are discrepancies in the number of harassment, intimidation, and bullying reports, possibly because the procedures are new and more training is needed.
Statewide, districts reported conducting 35,553 investigations and confirming almost 40 percent of them as harassment, intimidation, and bullying incidents.
“We must remain vigilant in our efforts to work toward better identification and reporting from our schools and districts,” state Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said in a statement.
But Stuart Green, the executive director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention, said that while he is glad the reporting is creating greater awareness of bullying, he has no confidence in the reported numbers.
“The [reporting system] is fatally flawed,” he said. “It is still self-reported by the districts.” He added, “the more we take this system seriously, the more validity we give it.”
The report provides some insight into how bullying takes place in school. More than 70 percent of incidents, almost 8,600, were in the form of an insult that demeaned a student or group of students. Almost 78 percent of the incidents were verbal, while 19 percent were physical.
Some incidents include more than one form of bullying; 12 percent were through electronic communication and 7 percent were written notes.
A student’s sexual orientation was the basis for 11 percent of incidents, gender accounted for 10 percent, a disability for 9 percent, and race for 8 percent. More than 60 percent were based on what was categorized as “another distinguishing characteristic.”
The report found that bullying took place in a variety of places in and outside of school buildings, including classrooms, hallways, cafeterias, and on school buses.
Disciplinary action primarily involved detention or suspension, according to the report.
A version of this article appeared in the October 10, 2012 edition of Education Week as N.J.'s Bullying Law Yielding First Data