New Jersey's schools are getting safer, but prescription drug abuse is a rising problem, reports the Newark Star-Ledger. The trends are shown in the state's annual report in violence and vandalism in public schools, a document that covered the state's 600 public school districts, which have a combined 1.38 million K-12 students. The reported decrease in violence, bullying and weapons incidents was credited to education efforts, and schools must now shift greater focus to the drug and alcohol problems, said educators and legislators.
The number of reported incidents of violence dropped 5 percent from 2007-08 to 2008-09; vandalism declined 3 percent; weapons incidents fell 15 percent and, at a time when bullying is a leading concern, reported incidents of harassment, intimidation, bullying and threat decreased by 4 percent. But incidents of substance abuse possession rose – up 6 overall percent in the one-year period, including a 22 percent increase in prescription drugs and a 14 percent increase in incidents involving alcohol. The number of incidents involving unauthorized use of prescription drugs rose from 149 to 238 between 2007 and 2009, an increase of 60 percent. However, the actual number of incidents over the three-year period may be considered small for a state with more than one million students.