This article was updated on Feb. 21, 2023.
Assistant School Superintendent Gino Priolo and district Harassment Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) Coordinator Sandra Horwitz gave the biannual report at the board of education’s Feb. 16 meeting that showed an increase in the number of allegations for bullying at the elementary school level.
The number of allegations was higher than the two reported in the first half of last year, but lower than the 20 reported last July for the second half of the year. Fifteen of the latter were investigated, with 13 confirmed as HIB, Horwitz noted that the number of cases reported had increased historically, and having several cases at the elementary level is unusual.
The threshold test for HIB uses the following factors:
- An act must be motivated by an actual, perceived or distinguishing characteristic of the target.
- The act must take place at school or have an effect on school.
- An act must sustainably disrupt or interfere with the orderly operation of the school or student rights
- An act must involve an injury to a student or a student’s property and result in a victim’s fear of being hurt; must insult or demean a student; or create a hostile environment that interferes with learning.
“Even if an allegation of HIB is made and it’s either unfounded or it is determined not to be investigated, that doesn’t mean nothing gets done,” explained Priolo. “There’s still the code of conduct. It just means that it’s not regulated by the HIB law and the policies surrounding it.”
This year’s report showed 13 allegations of HIB have been reported from September to December, which is historically high for the period as typically there are more cases in the second half of the year. There were no cases at Haddon Elementary, one at Central and three at Tatem, six at the middle school and three at Haddonfield Memorial High School.
“The middle school and high school are usually the highest,” Horwitz pointed out. “At the elementary schools, we usually don’t have any. The fact that we’ve had several in the elementary schools is unusual, but the total level of reports is much higher this year.”
Of the elementary school allegations reported, there were seven that passed the initial assessment (one at Central, two at Tatem, three at the middle school and one at the high school) and were investigated. There were three confirmed cases: one at Tatem, one at the middle school and one at the high school.
Priolo noted that a new update to the HIB policy was on the agenda for first reading.
“If it’s decided not to move forward with an investigation, that has to be affirmed by the superintendent of schools, whereby in the past, that decision could be made by the principal and the HIB specialists,” he said. “Now there’s an additional layer of checks and balances, but that now has to be signed off by the superintendent of schools, not his designee.”
The full HIB is available for viewing at https://haddonfieldschools.org and can be seen on the school district’s YouTube channel livestream.
In addition to HIB report at the meeting, the board accepted $14,804 from the Haddonfield Educational Trust for teacher grant awards and had a discussion on the board’s self-evaluation.
The next board of education will be Thursday, Feb. 23 at 7 p.m., at the Haddonfield Memorial High School library.