The bullying numbers are in, and the Rumson is pleased to hear that its schools' incident rate is very low.
"We had to have been, really, one of the exemplary districts that implemented this," said board member Tom Havard at Wednesday's board meeting where this year's report was reviewed.
Anti-bullying legislation was seen as prohibitive for many school districts last year, as schools were mandated by state edict to spend money from strained, 2 percent-capped budgets to implement extensive programs designed to protect students from harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB).
The anti-HIB initiatives require additional program-specific staffing, training and resources that can be costly.
In addition to the time investment, the mandatory program cost, according to Business Administrator Denise Friedmann, "tens of thousands of dollars" for things such as software and staff training, out of which Rumson only saw $4,001 returned in funding.
But for Rumson Schools Superintendent Mary Rose Caulfield-Sloan, it was worth it.
"It's really about looking at the school culture," Caulfield-Sloan said, "and empowering the bystanders to speak up, which diminishes the power of the bullies."
Part of the legislative push calls for tracking reports of bullying and cases where bullying incidents are verified. According to the superintendent, there were 47 reports in the district last year, but only 10 were deemed to be actual incidents of bullying after investigations were complete. Eight of the 10 incidents occurred at and two at .
"It is definitely something that took a lot of time but we have come to see that if we invest in it, the program does improve the school climate," Caulfield-Sloan said.
Caulfield-Sloan said the alternative — an environment where bullying is not addressed — makes it worth the time and expense.
"The cost to kids' learning is (otherwise) enormous," she said.