Hillside School failed to meet Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act standards during the 2021-22 school year — the only school in the district to do so — according to a self-assessment presented by the district in January.

This is at least the third year in a row that Hillside has failed to meet the standards. A minimum score of 54 is needed to meet all requirements, and the highest possible score is a 78. Hillside received a score of 51 for the 2019-2020 year, 42 for the 2020-2021 year and 44 for the 2021-2022 year. 

The district did not provide Montclair Local with the self-assessment reports for the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 school years. Hillside met requirements with a score of 54 on the self-assessment during the 2016-2017 school year. 

Buzz Aldrin Middle School received the second-lowest score in the district, just meeting the standard with a score of 54. However, the school’s score dropped from 75 during the 2020-2021 school year — the highest score received by a school that year. 

The other nine schools in the district exceeded the standard, but only four schools — Glenfield Middle School, Edgemont School, Nishuane School and Northeast School — received passing scores higher than in the 2020-2021 school year assessments. Northeast School received the highest score, 70. The district average was 61. 

"The effects of COVID brought new variables to social-emotional well-being that no one anticipated,” David Cantor, executive director of communications and community engagement, said Thursday, Feb. 2. “We now have a full-time mental health/anti-bullying coordinator who has initiated several new programs this school year.”

Those programs include partnerships with the Mental Health Association, the grief and loss counseling organization Imagine, Quantum Psychotherapy and the School Support Network, which focuses on the role of social-emotional learning in improving school climate, Cantor said.

The district will also be scheduling parent workshops “to engage parents as partners in achieving our goals,” he said.

The district declined to comment on Hillside’s failure to meet the standard, the significant score drop at Buzz Aldrin and the score jumps at four schools. 

The anti-bullying specialist at each school, in conjunction with the school climate team and principal, evaluated the school on eight core elements around harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB): HIB programs, approaches or other initiatives; training on the Board of Education-approved HIB policy; other staff instruction and training programs; curriculum and instruction on HIB and related information and skills; HIB personnel; school-level HIB incident reporting procedure; HIB investigation procedure; HIB reporting. 

The evaluation does not consider the number of HIB incidents at each school. 

While Maggie Shaver-Dock, the district’s mental health and anti-bullying coordinator, made the presentation on the self-assessments at the Board of Education’s Jan. 23 meeting, she did not disclose the complete assessments for each school. 

Overall, there was “very little movement” between the scores for the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 years, Shaver-Dock said. She joined the district in August.

“All things considered, I think we were doing pretty OK last year,” she said. “The scores tell us that we have a strong start, and we have a great foundation moving forward.”

And that moving forward has already begun, Shaver-Dock said. Some of the district schools have already met and exceeded several of the evaluation standards for the 2022-2023 school year, she said. 

The district has implemented timeline cover sheets for every HIB report and Genesis, the student data platform, is being regularly monitored as another way to track the HIB reports and timeline compliance, Shaver-Dock said. 

The school and district websites feature up-to-date information about HIB policies and procedures and provide more information and guidance than required by state law. School climate teams are submitting monthly reports that highlight programs, training and activities, and the teams are scheduling four meetings per year instead of the required two meetings. 

The schools have also held several events during the past few months that will be counted toward their self-assessment scores for the 2022-2023 school year, Shaver-Dock said. 

Glenfield Middle School hosted a Week of Respect where students were encouraged to “dress for success” and used the saying “Be a baddie not a bully.” 

Montclair High School had a Stress Awareness Day student lunch circle where they talked about stress management and reflected on the challenging end of the football season. 

Nishuane School held its annual Kindness and Justice Challenge, during which students earned links for acts of kindness that were connected to create a kindness chain that was displayed during the school’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly.

The self-assessments were overseen by Marcos Vargas, the district’s director of humanities, for the 2021-2022 school year. Vargas served as interim anti-bullying coordinator. 

Shaver-Dock said she will complete the self-assessment for the 2022-2023 school year during the last week of school in June and plans to present the assessments to the board during the summer.