JACKSON – While trusting the data, Board of Education members expressed that the numbers looked almost too good to be true when it came to tracking incidents of alcohol and drug use in district schools.
The school district’s new director of security, Ray Milewski, made a presentation before the board recently that showed no alcohol and prescription drug abuse incidents. Milewski’s PowerPoint presentation did, however, note 27 incidents of marijuana use during the time period of January to June 2018.
Milewski said the annual report covers incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse.
From July to December 2017, 18 incidents of reported violence were noted while January to June 2018 showed 22.
Vandalism in the district declined from six incidents to five during that same comparative period. Two incidents of weapons were noted in 2017 from July to December 2017 and that number remained the same for January to June 2018.
Substance abuse incidents reported were listed as 38 from January to July 2017 and 34 from January to July 2018 according to the presentation.
There were two fights at Jackson Memorial High School and three fights at Jackson Liberty High School during the period of January to June 2018. Six fights were noted at the Goetz Middle School which also saw two reports of simple assault and five threats.
Police were notified 11 times but no complaints were filed. There were also four incidents where police were notified that resulted in filed complaints.
There were three incidents of in-school suspensions and 83 incidents of out-of-school suspension. The number of student victims were listed at 31 and five school personnel victims were noted in the presentation.
There were 83 student offenders and no student victims of a violent offense.
“We take these incidents seriously. We investigate and make a determination based on what we investigate for all grades,” assistant superintendent Nicole Pormilli said.
Board vice president Viki Grasso asked about four cases where students refused to be tested for marijuana use.
Milewski said that in that case the incidents are “treated as a positive.”
Superintendent Dr. Stephen Genco said that the district has presented students with more information about the dangers of vaping which involve electronic cigarettes. “It is harmful and we have shared information about the chemicals in these products and as a result more students are reporting the use by their peers because they are concerned about them.”
Board of Education member Thomas Colucci asked about the penalty a student receives if they are found vaping.
Genco said that it was essentially the same if a student is found smoking a cigarette but “the vape is taken and if drugs are found we are talking a suspension.” Drug use would also be reported to police.
School Board President Scott Sargent said that he felt more incidents of substance abuse could be occurring but which were not detected and thus not reflected in the report.
“Kids are getting smarter,” Grasso said in regards to students ability hide substance abuse use while at school.
Milewski and Pormilli also presented a report on the district’s anti bullying program for the period of January to June 2018.
Among the investigations conducted, out of 32 reported incidents, 10 were found to be confirmed on the elementary school level. Out of 10 incidents, four were confirmed in the middle school level and out of 13 incidents, four were confirmed on the high school level. This was a total of 55 investigations and 18 confirmed incidents of bullying.
Of those incidents, nine pertained to appearance, three involved race/ethnicity, three involved gender, two involved gender identity expression, one involved sexual orientation and one involved home circumstances.
The incidents involved anything deemed to be demeaning, name calling, offensive comments, mocking, teasing, pushing or inappropriate touching.
Genco also reported during the meeting that he had visited every school building in the last few weeks in anticipation of the new school year’s start.
“Everything is looking great. Our new teacher orientations have just concluded. Our teachers seem to be getting younger and younger and it is great to see the excitement and energy during those orientations,” Genco said.
Board members commended the facilities department on its work preparing each building for the start of the school year. It was noted that some work concerning security vestibules was delayed due to the contractor not providing the proper specifications for the work.
Board members said they had confidence in the department’s ability to keep on top of the situation and for the needed work to be completed as soon as possible.
“We’re looking forward to getting things up and ready the for the new school year,” Genco said.