Home Marlton News HIB reports down, substance abuse up in LRHSD

HIB reports down, substance abuse up in LRHSD

As the district is happy with the low HIB numbers, they continue to grapple with the popularity of THC vaping as it relates to the uptick in substance abuse violations.

The district’s aggressive approach to eradicate bullying is paying off, while at the same time, they’re dealing with the rising popularity of vaping among teenagers.

For the 2018-2019 school year, the district had three confirmed reports of Harassment Intimidation and Bullying (two at Shawnee and one at Cherokee). District Emergency Management Coordinator Jim Kehoe said at the Oct. 16 board meeting that the reports stem from sexual orientation, religion and physical disability.

Consequences for the incidents range from suspensions to parent conferences, victim assigned an adult mentor, counseling for the parties involved, educational assignments for both, behavior contract and additional supervision assigned,” Kehoe said.

The number of HIB reports is down from 2017-2018’s five confirmed reports. Any and all incidents reported at the alternate high school, Sequoia, are documented at the student’s home high school.

In a school district with 6,878 students, three HIB violations appears to be questionably low, however, in an interview with The Sun, District HIB Coordinator and Assistant Superintendent Matt Webb said the low numbers are attributed mostly to the 22 student programs and 49 HIB training events for students and staff.

Some of the programs include the Anti Defamation League Peer Leadership Training, No Place for Hate, the award-winning Step Up and ID HIB, the Upstander program, internet safety and a peer mentorship program.

It’s where we train them to do this and to do it appropriately so they know how to intervene appropriately,” he said. “We have our students behave like role models.”

He also attributed the district’s low numbers to the students all being teenagers and past the stage of life where they name call others. He added the students they receive come from districts that instill support and growth in their students.

Webb added an amendment was issued last year by the state to change how HIB reports are handled and what classification they fall under. He said preliminary investigations are conducted to see if complaints meet all of the following requirements:

  • A victim is upset by an act of the offender
  • The act has to be written, verbal or documented in some fashion (including made on social media) and has to be motivated by a distinguishing characteristic such as gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, height, etc.
  • Has to be disruptive to the victim

With that, Webb said HIB complaints could be reclassified as assault, weapons or other student code of conduct violations, of which the district had 126 reports.

He added a total of 129 incidents were investigated and 120 of them were confirmed to have occurred, which is up 13 from the previous school year.

Of the total 129 reported incidents in the previous school year, 58 of them were substance abuse related. Kehoe clarified an incident is considered substance abuse if a student is in unauthorized possession or use of prescription drugs and over-the-counter medication.

In the 58 reported substance abuse incidents, 38 were confirmed where 18 of them were for possession, which led to 16 students being criminally charged for having a prescription. He added the other two students weren’t charged because they had over-the-counter medication.

The district had two incidents for distribution in which three students were charged.

Kehoe said what’s largely causing the spike in the incidents is the growing popularity of vaping in teenagers, especially those using vaping products with THC. When a student is caught vaping and under the suspicion of being under the influence of a drug, or admits to it, they are sent to testing, free-of-charge to the district.

If a test comes up positive for marijuana, a student is then charged for possession of marijuana. Kehoe added that if a student has another substance in their vapes, it can tie up the police’s testing and, if there’s no evidence to back that substance, then the student receives a code of conduct violation for vaping paraphernalia, which is a tobacco offense.

All of our schools around this area are seeing an increase in vaping,” Kehoe said. “They continue to deal with the opioid problem in our community, and what we see in our community is within our schools. We work with our counselors on our drug abuse programs.

Superintendent Carol Birnbohm said she and the board have been encouraging their sending municipalities to enact an ordinance similar to Evesham Township’s where if a Cherokee student is caught vaping, it’s turned over to the police and they could face fines.

The fines are $250 for the first two offenses and subsequent offenses go up in amount and students have to complete other activities after it,” Kehoe said.

Other reported numbers include:

  • 50 violence-related incidents where 26 were assaults, one was a criminal threat, nine were threats and 14 were fights. A total of 29 students were charged separately in the incidents (10 for assault, one for criminal threat and 18 for fights).
  • Four incidents of property damage (damaged computers, bathroom water pipe, window and spray paint), where two students were charged and restitution was made.
  • Three thefts where items more than $10 in value were stolen; all three were returned to their original owners.
  • Two trespassing incidents where a student, who was restricted from being on district property due to an earlier discipline, returned to school property for a recreational event and was involved in an incident and was later charged with trespassing. Another occurred at Cherokee where a man attempted to enter the building. Staff at Cherokee recognized him from a previous attempt to enter and he was unsuccessful, again, and charged with trespassing.

“That total [120 incidents], in my eyes, is low for [roughly] 6,900 students,” Kehoe said. “We don’t have little kids; it’s all teenagers. For the 120, we work hard to keep that number down with our counselors by being proactive in security with our SROs and building relationships with students.”

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