This week, Nutley school officials heard a report on bullying incidents and programs aiming to reduce harassment, intimidation and the number of students victimized by bullying.
Joseph Cappello, who oversees the anti-bullying efforts for the Nutley School District, discussed efforts to combat harassment, intimidation and bullying at schools during a public school board meeting.
"If you ask if we are we catching all of the cases of bullying, no, but we are addressing all of those brought to our attention," he said.
In the elementary schools, only six of 36 cases investigated ended up being classified as bullying, with nine out of 22 in the high school and just one of four at the middle school classified, according to Cappello.
School Board trustee Victoria Flynn asked whether the numbers are increasing and how they can be compared.
Cappello said statistics are not yet ready for comparison from year to year, because they have not been compiled for a long enough time period.
Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick said, "We have to wait for the numbers, including the reported versus the investigated, before we can compare."
There was a 400 percent increase in reports statewide from 2011 to 2012, Lazovick said, illustrating how districts have not yet figured out exactly how to classify bullying incidents.
"We don't know yet how the numbers will be grouped, and if they will be by socioeconomic status," Lazovick said. "We are already looking for trends, so we can better deal with the problems."
"At first, there may have been over-reporting, but now school officials recognize that some things are just conflicts or there was not the intent to be hurtful," Cappello said.
The district had 11 training sessions on preventing harassment, intimidation and bullying last fall, which included teachers, aides, custodians, bus drivers and any contracted service providers who have significant time spent around students, he said.
To deal with students found to be bullying, Cappello said that they may be required to write an apology letter, or an essay, research project or even a poster dealing with the subject of the bullying.
Among categories recognized as bullying subjects are race, national origin, sexual orientation, gender orientation or expression or religion, he said.
Newer programs include clubs concentrating on bullying on the Internet, a group called Helping Our Parents Endure, or H.O.P.E., while assemblies continue on all grade levels.
Cappello said, "I think we are doing a pretty good job addressing this, but we can and will do even better."