Cherry Hill schools sees a decrease in violence, vandalism and bullying incidents in 2016–17

For the first time in four years, there was a decrease in the overall number of incidents in Cherry Hill Public Schools 2016–17 Violence, Vandalism, Weapons and Substance Abuse Report.

After three straight years of increasing numbers, Cherry Hill Public Schools saw an overall decrease in violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse incidents during the 2016–17 school year.

The district’s annual Violence, Vandalism, Weapons and Substance Abuse Report was presented at last Tuesday’s Cherry Hill Board of Education meeting. The report went over the number of total violence, vandalism, weapons and substance abuse incidents as well as the number of confirmed harassment, intimidation and bullying decisions.

District Director of Security Anthony Saporito said many of the numbers did not change much from the 2015–16 school year. The district had slight decreases in the number of violence, vandalism, weapons and HIB incidents. The only category with an increase was substance abuse, where there were 54 reports

Saporito said the increase in substance abuse reports were partially due to a series of incidents involving multiple students.

“It was four incidents, but it involved 19 kids,” Saporito said. “When it comes to substance abuse, they all have to be reported separately.”

The vast majority of substance abuse reports involved the use or possession of either alcohol or marijuana. There were no incidents involving the distribution or use of a controlled dangerous substance last year.

Board vice president Eric Goodwin asked Saporito what the district was doing to keep students from using opioids. Saporito said deterring students from opioid use is part of the Cherry Hill Police Department’s education program with the students.

“It’s a very hard subject to get through to the kids sometimes,” Saporito said.

The district had its fewest number of violent incidents since 2012–13 with just 39 last year. Violent incidents include assaults, fighting, sex offenses and threats.

In the vandalism category, the number of incidents decreased from 24 incidents in 2015–16 to just 16 in 2016–17. The decrease was due in part to a large drop in theft. Only two incidents of theft were reported last year compared to 12 the previous year. The district did see an uptick in property damage last year. There were 11 reports of property damage, up from six in 2015–16.

In the weapons category, there were only five incidents of weapons possession, down from eight in 2015–16. Four of the incidents involved possession of a folding knife and one incident was possession of a partial blade from a kitchen knife.

“None of those weapons were involved in any incident other than possession,” Saporito said. “Over the past five years, there was only one incident where a weapon was used.”

The district had its lowest number of HIB incidents in three years in 2016–17. The district had 71 confirmed HIB incidents, down from a four-year peak of 87 in 2015–16. In the future, the district will also receive a report of the number of HIB investigations as the state Department of Education transitions to a new reporting system for incidents.

Out of all the incidents from last year, 40 were documented on a police report, but not referred to family court. Another 26 incidents were reported to police and referred to family court. Nineteen students were given an in-school suspension for committing minor infractions, and 110 students were suspended outside of school.

To view the school district’s full Violence, Vandalism, Weapons & Substance Abuse Report, visit www.chclc.org/departments/security.