A couple of weeks ago, I wrote to you about safety and security at our schools. I promised to give you an update of our most recent efforts and I have outlined them below.

As I noted in my last message about school safety, we are talking, thinking, practicing, and learning about school safety and security all the time. But a tragedy like the one in Parkland makes us all want to revisit our procedures and plans, and look for ways to make our buildings even more secure. To that end, over the past two weeks, we have taken the following steps in that effort:

  • The school administration met with the Chief of Police to discuss various issues and plans moving forward
  • The School Board President and I met with members of the Town Council and the Police Chief to coordinate efforts
  • The school administration and several members of the police department walked the buildings to discuss thoughts and ideas
  • I Re-read the full texts of The NJ SAFE Task Force, the Keeping New Jersey’s Schools Safe report from the New Jersey Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning (NJOSPEP), and the final report What Makes Schools Safe? ,commissioned by the New Jersey School Boards Association.
  • We conducted Lockdown drills at both schools with Chief Ent and two other officers observing. Also present at one of our drills was Jeff Gale, an expert in School Safety from NJ OSPEP. That group debriefed for nearly 2 hours

With all of this information and discussions with Law Enforcement and security experts, we recognize that our efforts to make our schools even safer should focus on:

  • Prevention and Identification – Students who would resort to such violent action give off many signals. We need to help students long before they ever consider hurting themselves or others. To do this, we need good identification training, good interventions, and an easy reporting system.
  • Denial of Access – Should the worst occur and someone wants to do harm in our schools, denying them entry is the first line of defense. We will be doing further consultation in regards to this. It is likely that you will see changes to the entry procedures at both schools in the future.
  • Lockdown and Crisis Procedures – An interesting fact from the NJOSPEP – no student in a Elementary, Middle, or High School has ever been killed during an active shooter event while in a locked classroom. Getting into lockdown and securing our students is the focus of regular drills and we want to perfect these procedures.

Some other information about school shootings:

  • The shooter will almost always be male, be a student, former student, or relative of a staff member
  • School shootings have decreased in frequency since 1992 and the five years with the most shootings were all before 2005
  • In one year, there are 8 teenage suicides per 100,000 children compared to 8 school shooting victims for every 5,000,000 students

We will continue to research and discuss any and every avenue to make our schools as safe and secure as possible. Some of these avenues may impact our visitor policy and the routines for visitors to enter our buildings, so we will be asking for your cooperation, as well. I want to assure you that this School Board has expressed nothing to me except their full support for any measure that would make our schools more secure.

Again, I will keep you posted as we move forward. I hope you had a wonderful weekend.