New Jersey schools grew more dangerous last year, with steadily increasing reports of violence in districts across the state.

Though there were 276 fewer assaults in the schools, the overall number of violent incidents — which included gang fights, robberies, sex offenses and criminal threats — increased by 5.6 percent over the past three years, according to the latest figures released Friday by the state Department of Education (viewable below).

Much of that increase was attributed to reported cases of harassment, intimidation and bullying, officials said.

"Though we cannot be certain whether the change in numbers reflects real increases or decreases in incidents, or simply better reporting, we do know that the new statewide anti-bullying law has put a focus on violence and bullying in schools, which is leading to better identification and reporting from schools and districts," acting Education Commissioner Christopher Cerf said in a statement.

The Violence and Vandalism in Schools report is produced each year by the state. It provides an accounting of all self-reported incidents of violence, vandalism, weapons, and substance use and possession from New Jersey’s 600 public school districts, covering a combined school population of 1.38 million K-12 students. The total number of incidents — both violent and otherwise — reported by all schools increased by 6.4 percent over the last three years, according to the department.


Information from: The Star-Ledger;