The Latest Data on NJ School Suspensions, Behavioral Problems

Colleen O'Dea | March 16, 2020 | Education
What the new School Performance Reports from state Department of Education reveal about violence, vandalism and bullying in our public schools

NJ School Disciplinary and Bullying Actions
NJ School Disciplinary and Bullying Actions

Search by one or more categories or just click search to see all the data

Editor’s note: This is the third in a series of NJ Spotlight updates highlighting data from the state’s latest School Performance Reports for every public school in New Jersey.

New Jersey school officials have a number of options for dealing with issues of student behavior, including when it crosses into violence, vandalism and bullying. The latest School Performance Reports show that schools suspended more than 53,000 students in 2018-2019.

The real number is doubtless higher, though, because in the data that the state Department of Education released last week it did not provide information on hundreds of districts, typically because of department rules for protecting the privacy of individual students.

DOE officials separately release an annual report on incidents, and when the report for 2018-2019 is published, that should include totals for the entire state. Even with incomplete data, the numbers of incidents in most categories reported were higher in 2018-2019 than in the prior year, according to an NJ Spotlight analysis of the data that was reported for individual schools.

For instance, the more than 53,200 students suspended last year was 200 more than in 2017-2018.

The incomplete data shows a slight drop in in-school suspensions, where students report to school but spend the day in a special classroom doing schoolwork, but an increase of at least 2,000 in the number receiving an out-of-school suspension to more than 35,200. The total school days missed by all students due to being suspended from school also rose by more than 16,000 to at least 166,000.

No expulsions were reported in the School Performance reports data released last week, compared with 31 in 2017-2018. The number of students removed from school and sent to a different school or educational program totaled 361 so far, significantly less than the nearly 1,200 transferred the year earlier.

More than 28,000 incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons offenses, substance use and harassment, intimidation and bullying were attributed to schools last year. Compared with 2017-2018, instances of violence increased (12,336), as did instances of vandalism (1,766), weapons possession or use (923) and possession or use of drugs or alcohol (6,277). The only category that was slightly lower was harassment and bullying, where the number of incidents reported by schools, 7,176, was less than the 7,522 in 2017-2018. Schools have undertaken numerous efforts, including increased trainings, to tackle the problem of bullying in education.

A final category — incidents reported to police — also rose, from about 7,200 in 2017-2018 to close to 7,800 last year.

DOE’s detailed report on disciplinary actions for the entire state could come later this month. In the meantime, you can see data and incidents reported by school in our searchable database.