The Mt. Laurel School District is crediting anti-bullying programs and positive student culture in a reduction of bullying incidents during the first half of 2014.
From January through June, the school district reported just 12 incidents of violence, vandalism, bullying and weapons offenses. The number is a decrease from 19 incidents in the same period during 2013.
Much of the reduction came from a large decrease in harassment, intimidation and bullying. The district had only eight confirmed HIB cases in the first half of 2014 compared to 16 in 2013. Superintendent Antoinette Rath attributed some of the reduction and incidents to the school’s anti-bullying programs and activities.
The district also had one incident of violence, one case of vandalism and two cases of weapon possessions. Rath said the weapons cases did not involve use and only involved small items such as a scout pocketknife being brought to school accidentally.
The school district released its violence and vandalism report as well as an updated security and school safety plan in conjunction with Violence Awareness Week.
Some of the security changes involve improvements the school district made over the summer. All Mt. Laurel schools were equipped with warning beacons and panic buttons to provide quicker response for emergency personnel and strengthen safety for students and staff. The district wrote a communication plan for both devices.
The other big change was a revision to the reunification plans maps for each school. Director of Communications Marie Reynolds used Harrington Middle School as an example, saying the old reunification site could potentially be inaccessible in an emergency.
“If Mt. Laurel Road was closed, parents would not be able to get the site,” Reynolds said.
The district also made changes to bomb threat procedures to clarify the involvement of emergency personnel in the situation.
Each October, the school district releases a revised plan to coincide with Violence Awareness Week. Reynolds said the district’s security procedures are very solid. She said the development of the plan is a credit to the district’s good relationship with the Mt. Laurel Police Department, the township and other emergency organizations.
“Our policies are very, very strong right now,” Reynolds said.
When revising the plan each year, the district looks at all aspects of security, from natural disaster plans and issues with utilities to drills and evacuation protocol. Some of the changes are made due to revisions in state or local laws, while others are upon observations district personnel have made.
Reynolds said changes are sometimes made during the school year, when a weakness is spotted during an event or a drill.
“We’ll make changes to the plan as necessary,” she said.
Changes in the plan are made available to all staff members and are communicated during training sessions. The plan is also made available to the Mt. Laurel Office of Emergency Management.