Eastern reviews Student Safety Data System

Violence, substance and student removals down from previous year

The Eastern Regional Girls Soccer team was recognized during the district’s board of education meeting Wednesday, Feb, 19. The team went 25-1 this past season, making it to the state championship game.

The Eastern Camden County Regional School District board of education hosted its monthly meeting Feb. 19, discussing school safety statistics from the previous semester, school surveys and other issues, while also recognizing the school’s Girls Soccer team.

Presenting to the board information from the Student Safety Data System 2019-2020 mid-year report, School Safety and Security Officer William Westerby showed statistics from September to December of the current school year, compared with numbers from the same time frame in 2018.

The report includes acts of violence, vandalism, HIB (Harassment, Intimidation or Bullying) substance abuse and student removals. According to this year’s report, Eastern experienced two acts of violence during the first semester of the school year — with both being fights — as well as six substance abuse cases and 52 incidents that led to student removals from school.

All three are decreases from the same time frame in the last school year, when Eastern had 10 violent incidents — seven being fights — as well as 10 total substance incidents and 79 incidents of student removal.

“Looking at the first semester of this year, when compared to the first semester of last year, we noticed a significant reduction in fights,” Westerby said. “Substance abuse was a nice decrease as well.”

While addressing the board, he said the school is “seeing a trend” in parents refusing a  student medical exam, at least this year, that would show the specific substance involved in abuse and the levels of said substance. Of the six substance abuse incidents from last semester, four students refused the medical exam, while none of the 10 from the previous school year refused.

Westerby clarified his comments following the board meeting, saying that for some reason, a majority of parents this year chose not to have students undergo a medical exam provided by Eastern and paid for by the school district. Refusal of a medical exam comes with an automatic, four-day student suspension.

“We encourage [students] to get evaluated through our exam, and we bear that expense,” Westerby noted. “However, parents are choosing to forego that option and taking the suspension. Because if they do refuse the tests, it’s an automatic suspension and it’s a presumed positive.

“The downside is that parents aren’t getting the feedback that our provider would give them, such as knowing what the substance is and what the levels are … ” he added. “It seems like parents don’t want to know, is what my observation would be.”

While the aforementioned incidents did decrease, the report showed Eastern had an increase in HIB incidents, from four to 13 between the two years. There were no vandalism incidents.

Superintendent Robert Cloutier reported that the district spoke with township officials, other school administrators and representatives of Rowan University about the potential of introducing e-Sports into Voorhees Township. The conversations are in the initial phase.

Cloutier reminded board members and others in attendance that the district has three surveys upcoming for students, community members and district staff that will help the  move forward in identifying problems and creating solutions.

Eastern Regional will host a student school climate survey on Friday, March 6, with all students completing questions during health or physical education classes. The survey is expected to take about 25 minutes.

Also upcoming in March, Eastern is expected to facilitate a communications survey for parents, staff and community members to help determine ways the district can better communicate with the general public. The district will soon create a survey on social emotional learning for teachers to complete.

In other news:

  • Joshua Baw was honored as the Scholar of the Month for February.
  • The board of education recognized the Eastern Regional girls soccer team before the start of the meeting. The team went 25-1, winning the Group IV Sectional Championship, while also making it to the State Championship.