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Schools: Students Adapted Well to Bully Laws

West Morris Central and Mendham High Schools had low rate of HIB misconduct, administrator says.

In its first year of implementation through New Jersey schools, the statewide harassment, intimidation and bullying program has made a change in students at the West Morris Regional School district, according to Anti-Bullying coordinator David Leigh.

From the outset, , Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast said, but clearly worth striving toward.

“We were all concerned at the beginning of the year,” Pendergrast said. “The goals of  HIB are important and admirable. We know you can’t learn in an environment if you don’t feel safe.”

Leigh provided the board of education a presentation reflecting statistics of HIB violations in the district from the 2011-12 school year, and the faculty did a nice job curtailing instances, he said.

“Our goal was to reduce harassment, intimidation and bullying,” Leigh said. “It’s not realistic to completely eliminate it, but it’s a good thought.”

Leigh said the district’s goal was to develop a school climate where respect and tolerance of difference is the norm. “We want students to take the initiative to stop HIB,” he said. “We want them to be in control of what happens in the schools.”

Early in the school year, each grade level underwent a variation of anti-bullying classes, assemblies or programs to help them understand what the definition is, how to stop it, and the new process laid out when something needed to be reported.

“Some of the kids said, ‘You’re HIB’ing us to death,’” Leigh said. “But we would rather it be that way than not give them enough information to be informed.”

Behind the numbers

The new system required faculty to report and document any claims made in the HIB guidelines, and go through a series of steps to determine if a claim was substantiated or not, and if it was, what disciplinary actions needed to be taken.

A breakdown of the claims in the district in 2011-12

2011-12 Total Claims Substantiated Met Definition* West Morris Central 9 5 1 Mendham High School 15 11 5

*Qualified for disciplinary action.

What Leigh said impressed him most was the changes he saw as the school year progressed.

“As time went on, students weren’t reporting instances, rather, going to faculty members to talk about situations and asking about the best ways to handle them,” Leigh said. “They were diffusing the situation themselves.”

Leigh also said that in both high schools, there were zero incidents of recidivism, and that each case was resolved every time.

Did you or your student notice a difference in the West Morris Regional High School District this year regarding bullying?

This article is posted on both Long Valley and Mendham-Chester Patch sites.

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