School Security Under Review After CT Shooting
It will be discussed in the board’s facilities committee.
All crisis management teams in the district met Monday morning to discuss current, and future, security measures in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, according to Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder.
Schilder said Tuesday that the teams were looking at reviewing current security procedures, while also making recommendations for enhancement.
“I compiled those into a format for the board facilities committee,” he said. “There are security issues, and suggestions are coming in that are very robust and detailed.”
Schilder declined to give specifics on what is being discussed at this time.
Board of education vice president Patrick Breslin said the facilities committee received the recommendations, and will be following up and evaluating each of them.
“We are trying to determine which are doable right away at no cost, and which are at some cost,” he said. “We are making some assessment as to what levels of support we might want and accept from local municipalities and potentially outside consultants.”
Schilder said they will begin prioritizing those suggestions, and are also planning to meet with law enforcement representatives from both Bridgewater and Raritan.
“It’s the beginning of a lot of work, and I just wanted to say thank you to staff members, parents and members of the general community who have taken time to send their thoughts via email over the past couple of days,” Breslin said.
As for the first two days back in school after the Newtown tragedy, Schilder said the central office, administration and supervisors were deployed throughout the district, and he spent time in many of the schools.
“The day was very calm,” he said. “The teachers were somber, there is no doubt about it, but they were professional. Everyone recognized the need to get back to our routines.”
Schilder said that many parents dropping off their children, particularly in the lower grades, seemed nervous, but that was to be expected.
And the students themselves, Schilder said, expressed little need to talk with counselors during the day.
“I’m sure kids were upset, but there was very little of that that came to the surface,” he said. “In the lower grades, they are probably not fully aware of what happened, which is probably the best thing.”
Still, throughout the day Schilder said, counselors and child study team members were available to help when needed.
In addition, Schilder said, representatives from both the Bridgewater and Raritan police departments were visible throughout the district and patrolling parking lots before, during and after school hours.
“They were there if for no other reason than to give reassurance that they were there with us,” he said.
Schilder said he did cancel all district-wide meetings for the entire week so teachers and administrators could be in their normal places all day and every day, and students would not have substitutes.
“And Tuesday was very much the same,” he said.
“I would like to compliment the staff for conducting a business-as-usual environment, but still remaining sensitive to any students, parents and colleagues who were struggling,” he added. “And I thank parents for entrusting their children to us on Monday, which was, I’m sure, a very difficult day.”
Lisa Weinstock, mother of a boy at Eisenhower Intermediate School, said at Tuesday’s board of education meeting that she has noticed five different examples of situations in which security could be improved in the district.
First, Weinstock said, she tried calling a teacher one day, only to find out that the phone was broken.
“We joked about it at the time, and she said she was putting in a request for a new one, but how do teachers get ahold of anyone if there is an emergency?” she asked.
In addition, Weinstock said, her son has told her that he often has substitutes in some of his classes. She said she is unsure whether those substitutes are trained in the security measures of the district.
In terms of dropping off her son, Weinstock said he participates in math league that meets before school hours.
“There are between 50 and 100 children there, and the building is completely open,” she said. “They are all in the cafeteria, and there is no security system at that point.”
The same, Weinstock said, goes for pick-up after school, when parents are in the cafeteria waiting to sign their kids out, and the building is once again completely open.
Finally, Weinstock said, there was an incident last year where her son was left unsupervised in the gymnasium while the rest of the class was outside—he couldn't be outside because he has spring allergies.
“I was not given a good reason of why he was left there,” she said. “The doors were completely open to the gym. What’s the point of having security?”
Weinstock said there are some measures that can be taken now, including getting doors to self lock, and having them locked as soon as the secretaries come in.
“Maybe it is worthwhile to see what else can be done,” she said. “I want to see my son every day after school. Please take what happened Friday, and do something to ensure every child’s safety.”