TRENTON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — New Jersey schools are reporting 12,024 instances of harassment, intimidation and bullying among students during the 2011-12 school year.

The data collection is mandatory under the state’s new anti-bullying law which took effect last year.

Since the new report uses different definitions for the behavior there’s no earlier data for comparison. The numbers of incidents, which were made public Tuesday, vary widely by district and may reflect how diligent each school is at reporting, rather than how much bullying there is.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reports

“We don’t know what those numbers mean,” said Stuart Green, director of the New Jersey Coalition for Bullying Awareness and Prevention. “It’s completely self-report, there’s no collateral or checking other, you know, correlating process in place.”

Bullying in school, once written off as just something kids have to deal with, has evolved into a serious issue. New Jersey was among a wave of states that passed anti-bullying laws a decade ago after the school shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

In 2012, it’s far more widely seen as a real problem.

“Bullying is exceedingly common,” Green said. “We don’t yet have schools that are paying enough attention to the social and emotional status of children.”

New Jersey’s law got an overhaul, which advocates said made it the nation’s toughest, in a law passed in 2010 and signed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2011. Though the bill was already in the works, attention given to the 2010 suicide of Rutgers student Tyler Clementi, whose freshman-year roommate used a webcam to watch him kissing another man, resulted in quick passage of the state’s new law.

Now, schools are required to have anti-bullying programs and coordinators while those measures previously had been merely recommended.

And schools are required to report instances of bullying to the state.

In the state’s report tabulating those reports for the first time, Woodbridge, a district with more than 13,000 students, had the most reported incidents, with 177. Newark, the state’s largest school district with more than 39,000 pupils last year, had 105 reported incidents.

In Camden’s school district, there were 35 reported incidents. But at D.U.E. Season, a small charter school in Camden — and not considered part of the school district — there were 16.

Some mid-size districts reported no bullying incidents.

The state also says that there were fewer assaults, fights, criminal threats, robbery, extortion and vandalism last year, compared with the previous school year.

While relatively small numbers, there were more cases of students caught with guns and drugs at school.

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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