HIB incidents down 33 percent in Mt. Laurel Schools

Mt. Laurel Schools have made some progress in reducing harassment, intimidation and bullying incidents in the first half of the 2013–14 school year.

Mt. Laurel schools released the mid-year HIB report at last week’s Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Antoinette Rath’s report said confirmed incidents are down 33 percent from the same point last year. The school district had six confirmed incidents from Sept. 1 through Dec. 31 in 2013. The same period in 2012 yielded nine confirmed incidents.

The number of total HIB investigations is also down. There were 15 investigations in the first four months of the school year, down from 19 investigations in 2012.

Rath said the reduction in incidents has been a combined effort of the district’s anti-bullying programs and the work done by administration and personnel.

“I must extend thanks to the administration, our teachers, our staff, our programs and our students,” Rath said.

Mt. Laurel has created a few programs to reduce HIB incidents. One of the programs is through the Responsive Classroom program. The program has every class take 10 minutes out of the beginning of each day to have students talk to each other about what is on their mind, allowing them to be open and fostering a sense of a classroom family.

There were also two reports of violence listed separately from HIB incidents in 2012. In the first half of this school year, there were no confirmed violence reports.

In other news:

• Rath expressed her gratitude toward the Mt. Laurel schools handling of the snowstorm that caused the district to have early dismissal on Jan. 21, a day off on Jan. 22 and a delayed opening on Jan. 23.
Rath said the early dismissal day was particularly tough, as buses were slow in getting children home because of the road conditions and congested traffic. However, she was pleased with the district’s decision making.
“Our community was notified with ample time to makes alternate plans,” she said.
Marie Reynolds, the district’s director of communications, said the early dismissal was the first for the school district in about a decade. It is rarely used because officials do not like to send elementary school students home early when a parent or guardian may not be home.
The decision was made in conjunction with the Lenape Regional High School District and the other elementary school districts falling in the Lenape footprint.

• Rath said the state Department of Education has extended the school district’s 2014–15 budget timeline into late April. This date falls later than usual. The board will discuss a date for the public hearing on the budget this month. The public hearing will take place some time in March.

• Rath recognized the Board of Education at the meeting with a resolution in honor of School Board Recognition Month.
Rath put a personal touch on the resolution, talking about each board member individually. She said the current board has a combined 102 years of service.

• Rath said all Google Chromebrooks purchased last month have been allocated to students in the district. The Board of Education approved the purchase of 575 Chromebooks in November in preparation for the PARCC tests next year.

• The next Mt. Laurel Board of Education meeting is a work session on Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. in the Hattie Britt Administration Building. The board’s next regular meeting will be Feb. 25 at 7:30 p.m.