Pubdate: Fri, 28 Jul 2006
Source: Daily Record, The (Parsippany, NJ)
Copyright: 2006 The Daily Record
Author: Tien-Shun Lee
Bookmark: (Youth)


Hike In Randolph And Pequannock

The number of violence, vandalism and crime incidents reported by 
schools in Morris County decreased by 11 percent when comparing the 
2004-05 school year with the previous year, according to a state 
report released on Thursday.

The most significant decreases occurred in Rockaway Township, 
Roxbury, Morris Hills Regional, Dover and Hanover.

The Randolph and Pequannock school districts, on the other hand, went 
against the county trend, experiencing significant increases in the 
number of violence, vandalism and crime incidents from year to year.

The report, issued annually by the state Department of Education for 
more than 20 years, used statistics gathered in the 2004-05 school 
year. The incidents are reported electronically by school 
administrators and faculty on an ongoing basis throughout the school 
year. Data from the school year that just ended is still being 
analyzed by the department.

Dover school board President Liz Corsetto said that her district's 
large drop in violence --from 71 to 31 reported incidents -- probably 
was due to schools analyzing what their problems were and addressing 
them, rather than a change in the way incidents are reported.

"Following the reporting requirements from the state DOE is something 
that we're always conscious of," she said.

Dover schools Superintendent Robert Becker could not be reached for comment.

In general, schools are working hard to identify where incidents are 
occurring, and to take steps to prevent them, said Susan Martz, 
director of the state DOE's Office of Program Support Services.

Proactive schools

"If the incidents are occurring, for example, during free periods 
when classes are changing, or during recess, schools have instituted 
more supervision in those areas, or changed traffic in corridors to 
eliminate contact between students," Martz said. "They've actually 
been trying to do a lot of things."

Pequannock's total reported incidents increased from nine to 30, 
largely due to 13 drug incidents during the 2004-05 school year.

Pequannock's new school superintendent, Larrie Reynolds, said 
Thursday that the drug incidents involved 13 students coming to 
school under the influence of alcohol.

Reynolds noted that there were no drug incidents in the past school 
year. The improvement may stem from a random drug testing policy that 
the district's high school and middle school adopted last year, 
Reynolds said. Under the policy, any student who joins an 
extracurricular organization, and any student who voluntarily wishes 
to be part of the drug testing program, may be randomly tested for drugs.

Fluctuations in Pequannock's violence incidents -- from five in 
2003-04, to 12 in 2004-05 and to three in the school year that just 
ended -- might simply be due to a change in the kids in school, Reynolds said.

"Why do they fight nowadays? Girlfriends. It just happens," he said. 
"Ultimately, in any school, no matter where it is, you're going to 
have some kid that's going to lose his temper."

In Randolph, violence incidents went up from 19 to 37 and drug 
incidents from four to 19.

Randolph's schools superintendent was on vacation and couldn't be 
reached for comment.

The district's communications director, Judy Palermo, noted that 
although the total number of incidents increased 88 percent -- from 
36 in 2003-04 to 68 the following year, the number of incidents went 
down again, to 30, in the school year that just ended.

"Every year, of course, is different," she said. "We take everything 
very seriously, and we have a wonderful working relationship with the 
police department. We just did our last report, and it's back down."

Reliable reporting?

Asked if the DOE report's statistics are reliable since they are 
self-reported by schools, Martz said that the state has taken steps 
to improve the consistency and accuracy of reporting, including 
surveying 19 out of the 51 districts in the state to find out what 
factors contributed to sizable declines in the number of reported incidents.

In the future, verification of reporting will be part of all 
districts, said Barbara Gantwerk, assistant acting commissioner for 
the state DOE.

Mary Donohoe, a spokeswoman for the Morris School District, which 
reported 76 incidents in 2004-05 -- the highest in the county -- 
cautioned that the DOE reports' statistics can be misleading, 
especially because districts can be more or less aggressive in 
reporting incidents.

"I can tell you for a fact that we're extremely aggressive in 
reporting," Donohoe said. "Especially at the high school level, we 
report all incidents."

Donohoe said the district's schools, which serves 4,650 students, are safe.

"Certainly, the best way to get an idea of the safety environment of 
school is to speak to parents, students and staff at the school, or 
to actually see it," she said. "We invite anyone who wishes to visit 
our schools," she said. 
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