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Superintendent of Schools : Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!


The following column appeared in The Ridgewood News on November 24, 2017.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

It’s been quite a month in our idyllic community. Faced with the fallout from a serious student incident that occurred on district property after school hours, our Village has been challenged to ponder some equally serious questions. How is that Ridgewood children chose to resolve their issues with serious physical violence rather than civil mediation? Why did bystanders feel motivated to record the incident rather than rush to intervene? What part did social media play in fueling the dispute and shaping the community’s reactions, rumors, rants and pointing of fingers?

Importantly, too: With the investigation now completed and behind us, where do we go from here? How can this incident be used as an opportunity to do better?

We are asking all of those questions at the school district level, starting by examining our student policies, as you already have heard us say. I invite you to look at the policies, especially 5512, which covers Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying, and also 5600, our Student Discipline Code of Conduct. The policies, which also detail how often they are revised, may be found on our website at

As important as the policies are, to a large extent examining them is the not-so-difficult part of the task ahead. I say this because policies are generally rules for dealing with the aftermath of incidents or instructions in how to do certain things, and we are equally intent on finding ways to prevent such incidents from occurring in the first place.

Equally important is the need for all of us as individuals, as parents and guardians, mentors and coaches, residents and neighbors, to ask the above questions of ourselves. Such incidents challenge us to examine our own personal policies and behaviors, to look at how we can do better at modeling the behaviors we want our children to adopt as they grow into mature adults and assume the responsibilities as our society’s leaders of tomorrow.

For the most part, I think it’s fair to pat ourselves on the back. We do a terrific job in this community of raising responsible kids, and that is because we really are good people ourselves. We clearly have big hearts that are in the right place, proven by the endless list of ways we teach our children to try to make a difference. The full coin jars for hurricane relief, overflowing shoe collections for the needy, piles of coats and bags of groceries that are regularly collected, successful Pink Outs and Pajama Days for worthy causes, all point to the success of our parents and guardians, our teachers and administrators, in modeling strong values that align with Thanks and Giving, a favorite theme of mine and so many others at this time of year.

So how is it that a community so good at doing Thanks and Giving is facing such difficult questions at the moment? While I do not have that answer, nor the answers to the other challenging questions above, I will suggest that just as Thanks and Giving are important to our health and wellbeing as individuals and members of society, the practice of for-giving is vital, too.

Forgiveness. It takes humbleness and swallowing of pride and can be difficult. But as we know, forgiveness is also a very cathartic act, as well as the foundation for reconciliation, which is why we teach our children to say they are sorry from their earliest days.

At this time of Thanksgiving and the beginning of the magical holiday season when there is always much talk about counting our blessings and peace on earth, I’d like to encourage us all to think about forgiveness, too. It just may help us move forward, to grapple as a community with our issues in an honest and loving way.

I maintain hope that this incident and our reflections together will result in shaping us into even worthier citizens, an even stronger community, and yes, ultimately a better world that lives in peace.

Go Cowboys! And remember the Kelly Creegan Foundation’s annual Coat Drive this Saturday at Graydon parking lot!

As always, please feel free to contact me with your questions or concerns.


Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D.
Superintendent of Schools

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Reader says Suddenly there is talk of ‘community’ and ‘keeping thing out of press’ and ‘children and parents sorting it out.’


Suddenly there is talk of ‘community’ and ‘keeping thing out of press’ and ‘children and parents sorting it out.’
Meanwhile just last week, a lynch mob was being riled up to break down doors, handcuff, imprison, institutionalize, expel at least 50+ high school kids.. err psycho animals and thugs. And a LOT of Ridgewood residents – both present and past – were in full agreement, whether they knew the first thing about the ‘incident’ or not.
I wonder what changed!

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Reader says I couldn’t believe my ears, at last board of ed meeting where parents screamed about lack of communication about the “INCIDENT.”

Ridgewood Police at RHS

file photo by Boyd Loving

I couldn’t believe my ears, at last board of ed meeting where parents screamed about lack of communication about the “INCIDENT.”
Fishbein went through the schools with powerpoint and pointed that they want the taxpayers to come up with MILLIONS of dollars to upgrade the windows and bathrooms and other cosmetic fix ups , so the kids can have a good environment in which to work, words like appealing, good condition, safe. ( only justified change I thought was new fire alarm system at high school if really needed, it would cost over 100K if I remember correctly)

Hey, Fishbein , how about being able to communicate properly to parents during a crises.

So what about not allowing kids to bring in Smart Phones and text while class is going on, Fishbein. Apparently only one teacher has that rule in a German Class, I think it was middle school. Kids have to put Smart phone on shelves during class.

What about teaching about Social Media dangers. Maybe that would provide a safe and appealing environment.

MANY GREAT INTELLECTUALS , writers, scientists, did not have Lux schools and they did great things. Stop this materialistic nonsense and get to work teaching values.

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Ridgewood High School Principal Adresses “the Incident “


Important Message from Dr. Gorman
November 7, 2017
Dear Parent(s)/Guardian(s) and Students:
Two weekends ago, a serious situation occurred involving Ridgewood High School students that is still being investigated by the high school administration and Ridgewood Police Department. The investigation will be resolved as quickly as possible and the consequences for those involved will be appropriate, educational, and, if need be, therapeutic. Because the situation involves minors, the details and consequences of the case cannot be shared and will remain confidential. To protect all RHS students, we ask the public to please refrain from comments, speculation, and judgment. Every day we are trusted by the community to educate the children of RHS, supervise them in their activities, and partner with the parents/guardians when they are in need. We ask you to continue to trust us in this situation to be diligent and thoughtful in our investigation and determination.
The recent altercation that occurred after school hours but on school grounds, is greatly troubling and upsetting to us on many levels. It saddens me and the entire high school faculty that some RHS students did not use their best judgment regarding this situation. This event now gives us all a chance to pause and reflect upon what is truly important in life. We ask all parents/guardians to please engage in a meaningful conversation with their children and encourage them to be open and honest with you and/or the school about anything that may be on their minds.
At RHS, we pride ourselves on being a family that shares many of the same values – friendship, trust, appreciation, caring, and open and honest communication. Whether as a member of a team, the band, a club, or an academic class, this is the students’ home away from home. We strive to make Ridgewood High School a safe and welcoming place for everyone.
Unfortunately, some feel that they can say or do whatever they wish when there is no adult watching over their shoulder. Having this kind of attitude pays a disservice to their family, teachers, religious communities, and classmates here at school. Students know better and should expect better. Remember the Platinum Rule – treat others as they wish to be treated. We teach this to our students as soon as they enter our doors and I am sure it is taught in your homes.
Parents, as adults we need to model responsible use of social media and to refrain from using disrespectful or threatening language online. We cannot expect our children to behave better than we do. What we are learning about this situation is that it centered around the misuse of social media on the part of some students. We ask parents to take an active role in monitoring their children’s use of social media and to partner with the schools to educate our students about this crucial issue.
Students, when we adults cannot be with you and you are under your parents/guardians’ care, we expect you to uphold the same values that we, here at RHS, and your parents/guardians, have imparted to you. You are responsible for your actions in school and when you are under your parents/guardians’ care after school hours. In addition, we expect you to hold accountable others who are not living up to these same values. As John Wooden, a famous basketball coach, once said, “The truest test of a man’s character is what he does when no one is watching.”
Social media posts that are malicious in nature can be psychologically damaging to all parties involved. Any such post should be reported immediately to an adult so that it can be addressed appropriately. We ask students not to participate in any negative chatter online through social media, to help monitor each other, and to stand up when someone fails to adhere to the value system we embrace when in the classrooms, halls, locker room, theater, or on the athletic fields. Finally, we ask you to keep an open and honest line of communication with the adults in this building. We are here to support you.
Throughout a student’s experience at RHS, he or she will be exposed to many educational programs, academic lessons, and positive values and messages that reinforce what it means to be a RHS student. Such experiences include, but are not limited to, addressing all students at the beginning of each school year about HIB; participating in the #Day1 Tyler Clementi Foundation Upstander Pledge; exploring many student topics with peer counseling through Freshmen F.O.C.U.S.; educating all athletes about sportsmanship; teaching students about the dangers of texting and driving, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and vaping; teaching students through classroom lessons about respect, tolerance, and conflict resolution; and having students listen to guest speakers presenting first-hand accounts of genocide and the Holocaust. These offerings help to foster positive relationships between students and faculty, allowing students to feel comfortable sharing their problems with staff members. We believe that these programs also have reduced instances of bullying at Ridgewood High School.
The policies and code of conduct that govern the high school are strong and have served us well. However, in light of recent events, we are revisiting them to determine if changes are necessary. Throughout many of the students’ classes at RHS, they are taught the proper protocols of technology and internet safety and responsibility. We will be revisiting these lessons and protocols to determine their effectiveness. We are also working with law enforcement officials to find appropriate future programs that can help further educate our students on the perils of bullying and harassment and how to stop volatile situations before they go too far.
One of the school’s responsibilities is to ensure the safety and well-being of all the students and staff. When students experience problems, they are encouraged to seek out a teacher, counselor, or grade advisor. In addition to a student’s parents/guardians, these staff members are excellent resources from whom to get assistance on any issue. To ensure student success of all kinds, the school and community must work cooperatively to inspire and implement this shared vision.
Thomas A. Gorman, Ed.D.

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Ridgewood Board of Education Holds It’s First Public Meeting Since the Incident


November 7,2017

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ,  in the first Ridgewood Board of Education public meeting since news broke of the series of fights starting at Stevens Field and then on Brookside Field that sent a high school student to the hospital severely beaten , the Board of Education seemed to be in full CMA (Cover my arse ) mode .

While blog readers have understood with the Ridgewood Police Department now investigating,”This is far from cut and dry. Authorities are doing the right thing by exercising due diligence and making sure they have the full story and truth rather than rushing out to appease with a half informed statement that could expose them to a potential suit especially by the accused. Fishbein’s generalized comments are appropriate at this time , the immediate concern should be injured’s recovery regardless of who and what .When the real story comes out then people can assess whether suspensions or penalties are warranted . This is not going away for anyone anytime soon”

The angry crowd of parents and residents wanted answers .

In a message put out by Daniel Fishbein, Ed.D. Superintendent of Schools to parents and guardians ,Fishbein wrote  “It is important to address and dispel rumors that are circulating in our community and to ask for your understanding that this issue, like all student issues that involve minors and are also part of a student’s record, is, and will remain, confidential. Just as we protect the privacy of your child’s record, we are compelled to do the same for all children involved in this incident. For this reason, we cannot comment on the episode or on the eventual outcome, but I do want to reassure you as both a parent and also as your Superintendent, that I trust the administration to act in the best interest of all the students involved, as well as the entire school community. Anyone found to be involved in this incident will be held accountable in an appropriate way, including possible legal proceedings, school discipline and/or counseling.”

While parents play the blame game the Ridgewood blog will continue to focus on who dropped the ball and who didn’t report the brewing conflict between the kids? Unless this happened over night someone at the school or a parent had to know something .

The policy is that the Ridgewood Board of Education explicitly and unequivocally prohibits acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying of its students. “Harassment, intimidation or bullying” means any gesture, any written, verbal or physical act, or any electronic communication, whether it be a single incident or a series of incidents, that is reasonably perceived as being motivated either by any actual or perceived characteristic, such as race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or a mental, physical or sensory disability, or by any other distinguishing characteristic, that takes place on school property, at any school-sponsored function, on a school bus, or off school grounds pursuant to law, that substantially disrupts or interferes with the orderly operation of the school or the rights of other students and that:

a. a reasonable person should know, under the circumstances, will have the effect of physically or emotionally harming a student or damaging the student’s property, or placing a student in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm to his person or damage to his property;
b. has the effect of insulting or demeaning any student or group of students; or
c. creates a hostile educational environment for the student by interfering with a student’s education or by severely or pervasively causing physical or emotional harm to the student. !

More importantly an event must be reported  , “Any school employee, contracted service provider, Board of Education member, student or volunteer who has witnessed, or has reliable information that a student has been subject to, harassment, intimidation or bullying is obligated by law to report the incident to the school Principal. !
An act of student harassment, intimidation, or bullying must be reported verbally to the Principal on the same day the person witnesses or receives reliable information regarding the incident. ! The incident must then be reported to the Principal in writing, using the appropriate district form, within two (2) school days of when the incident was observed or the information was received.
As a permanent or substitute school employee, a contracted service provider, a Board of Education member, a student or a volunteer in a New Jersey public school district, one of your responsibilities is to know how to respond if you become aware of harassment, intimidation or bullying that needs to be reported.”