MANCHESTER – Nowadays schools have layers of security devices and methods in place to protect the students from the outside world; but what about the threats that stem from within?
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, between 1 in 3 and 1 in 4 students report that they have been bullied at school.
“Most bullying happens in middle school…There is growing awareness of the problem of bullying, which may lead some to believe that bullying is increasing. However, studies suggest that rates of bullying may be declining. It still remains a prevalent and serious problem in today’s schools,” according to Stopbullying.gov, a US Department of Health and Human Services website.
Last month, Manchester Township School District officials discussed the results of their annual Harassment, Intimidation & Bullying (HIB) Self-Assessment for the 2018-2019 school year. Manchester schools scored above average in all categories, demonstrating their ability to both prevent and address bullying issues.
At a recent Board of Education meeting, Alex George, Director of Student and Administrative Services, presented the district’s HIB Assessment results to the board. Overall, the district scored a 71.1 out of a possible 78.
“What this is, is sort of a culmination of our mandatory reporting for the HIB legislation,” said George. “Every spring we bring our anti-bullying specialists together, and we take a look at all the buildings from a couple of different perspectives.”
The HIB assessment consists of 26 indicators within 8 Core Elements. The Core Elements and Manchester’s score in each area are as follows:
- HIB Programs, Approaches or Other Initiatives:13 out of 15
- Training on the BOE Approved HIB Policy and Procedures: 7.8 out of 9
- Other Staff Instruction & Training Programs: 13.2 out of 15
- Curriculum & Instruction on HIB and other related information & Skills: 5.5 out of 6
- HIB Personnel: 8.5 out of 9
- School Level HIB Incident Reporting: 5.3 out of 6
- HIB Investigation Procedures: 12 out of 12
- HIB Reporting: 5.8 out of 6
Core Element #1, HIB Programs, Approaches or Other Initiatives, encompasses the district’s established programs. When performing the self-assessment, school officials ask themselves: Are they designed to prevent and address harassment, intimidation, and bullying? Have they looked for patterns and reviewed school climate and policies?
“We’re very good about knowing what we’re doing and the process,” said George.
This first element is one of two areas that George noted as needing a bit of improvement. The district is looking to incorporate the new Social Emotional Learning & Mindfulness curriculum into these programs.
“The PTA will bring Lead University (a group of trained teaching artists who deliver personalized empowerment experiences to students and staff) to all of the elementary and middle schools,” according to the district.
Core Element #2, Training on the BOE Approved HIB Policy and Procedures, has to do with the training the district provides in bullying.
“We try to approach it from different perspectives,” said George. “We really want to make sure that …we do have a policy, what is that policy, what do the students need to be aware of…”
Core Element #3 is Other Staff Instruction & Training Programs. This element considers the incorporation of suicide prevention into the proper bullying training. This was the second area of improvement that George addressed.
“The teams felt like that [suicide prevention] was one area that we might want to bring in,” he added. This would involve, for example, bringing in expert presenters to discuss the topic with students.
Core Element #4, Curriculum & Instruction on HIB and other related information & Skills, ensures that instruction is age appropriate and that it incorporates the Week of Respect. Mandated by the Department of Education, the Week of Respect is the week beginning with the third Monday in October of each year (October 21-25, 2019), designated as School Violence Awareness Week in New Jersey.
Core Element #5 has to do with HIB Personnel.
“We have two anti-bullying specialists at least in every school that are trained…Our school safety teams are made up of teachers, anti-bullying specialists, administrators, parents,” said George.
George noted that the school safety teams meet on a regular basis and the township police are starting to get involved as well.
Core Element #6, School Level HIB Incident Reporting, affirms that the schools implement and follow their procedures.
Core Element #7, HIB Investigation Procedures, revolves around following and completing the district’s investigation procedures. It is district policy to notify parents, complete the investigation in 10 days, and prepare the report for the superintendent.
Receiving a 12/12 on this element, George added that Manchester is “exceeding the expectation.”
Lastly, Core Element #8, HIB Reporting, ensures that the district has a procedure in place for reporting HIB and that grades from the self-assessment are posted on the school and district website.
“A score of 52 [out of 78] would be meeting all expectations set forth by the Department of Education,” he explained.
With a 71.1 of 78, Manchester is clearly exceeding these expectations.
“Across the board we have a very strong program,” said George.