Violence down in district

By AUBRIE GEORGE | The Moorestown Sun

Moorestown Township Public Schools saw a significant decrease in violent incidents during the 2007–08 school year, according to the state Department of Education’s annual report on school violence and vandalism.

There were a total of 18 total incidents in Moorestown schools in 2007–08 — eight of those were acts of violence, three were acts of vandalism, two involved weapons and six involved substances. This showed a significant decrease from the 2006–07 school year when 42 total incidents were reported as well as a decrease from 2005–06 when 31 incidents occurred in the district.

Superintendent of Moorestown Public Schools John Bach said the long-term trend is moving in the right direction. Bach said the district is pleased with the state’s report, but would have liked to see zeros across the board when it comes to all violent acts.

“I think the numbers speak to a safe school environment,” Bach said. “One where students are civil and where they are focused on their education.”

While the numbers were down in 2007–08, there were eight incidents of vandalism during the 2008–09 school year, according to Bach.

“We certainly want to step up our efforts to prevent vandalism,” Bach said. “We had eight and, of course, that costs the taxpayers money and detracts from our overall school environment. We’re certainly going to be as vigilant as we can about maintaining our buildings and facilities in the condition that the taxpayers delivered them to us.”

Bach said that when violent incidents do occur in the district they are handled firmly, fairly and consistently.

“We don’t tolerate violence no matter what the provocation,” Bach said.

Bach said the district has a number of programs in place that aim to prevent violent incidents in the schools before they even occur.

“We have a number of anti-bullying efforts,” Bach said. “In fact, one of our major goals this year is to look at our violence prevention and anti-bullying work.”

Bach said the district has formed a task force, headed by Upper Elementary School Assistant Principal, Mike D’Ascenzo, to study those areas.

“We’re taking a very in-depth look at that to see how we can improve,” Bach said.

He said it was a combination of policy and the quality of students that kept the district’s violent incidents low in 2007–08.

“I think that we’re extremely conscientious about bullying behavior and about conduct which is not civil and we really try to make that a point of emphasis,” Bach said. “We really try to empower our students to make good decisions and see that as part of their contribution to the school system — if they manager their own behavior.”

A state law that was initiated in 1982 requires that the state commissioner of education file a report with state legislature each year that details the level of violence and vandalism in the state’s public schools. The analysis that comprises the 2009 report includes all reported data from the 2005–06 through 2007–08 school years.

Statewide, this year’s report shows a 5-percent decline in the total number of reported incidents between the 2006–07 and 2007–08 school years. In general, the total number of incidents reported decreased by almost 1,000 to 17,666 in 2007–08; 18,633 incidents were reported in 2006–07, according to a statement release by the DOE.