Inquirer Editorial: With new data, state can reduce school bullying

Posted: October 22, 2012

A new report on bullying in New Jersey public schools offers a starting point to better address an old problem.

Bullying is typically verbal and more concentrated in middle-school grades. Cyber-bullying is not as widespread as many would believe. Those findings were in the state Department of Education's first in-depth examination of "Intimidation and Bullying."

According to the report, a third of the 35,552 alleged bullying cases investigated statewide last year were verified. Only 12 percent involved cyber-bullying.

It appears that some districts did a better job than others in reporting bullying incidents, a flaw in the report, which relies upon self-reported data from districts.

For example, the Lenape School District in Burlington County, with more than 7,000 high school students, reported only three cases last year. Moorestown, with 4,067 students, reported none. A high school with no bullying?

Education officials, in part, attribute the disparities to the success of antibullying programs and differences in how districts handle and report incidents. Even with gaps, the report offers a portrait of bullying that helps make the case for directing more funds toward the problem.

New Jersey's 2010 antibullying law is one of the toughest in the country. It includes a list of protected classes in categories such as gender, religion, and race. With the law and the new report, appropriate steps can be taken to assure schoolchildren can learn without fearing their classmates.

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