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More Security Personnel Considered at High School

District earmarks $30,000 in initial 2013-14 budget for additional security on open campus.

The district held its first discussions Tuesday on the 2013-14 school budget, and $30,000 has been earmarked for possible increased security at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School—all as discussed prior to Friday’s tragic school shooting in Connecticut.

According to Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder, there is currently a parking lot security person at the school, and principal Brett Charleston has suggested hiring at least two more to be stationed at different parts of the campus.

“The high school is an open campus, and security issues have always been a concern,” Schilder said.

The original proposal, Schilder said, had been for five additional security personnel to roam the campus all day, including in the early morning hours and the early evening for sports and other events.

“We scaled back on that for financial reasons, but the events of last Friday have of course made me think more about it,” he said.

Board member Jill Gladstone said she would be interested in more discussion about the security at the high school, and whether it would be beneficial to have an armed officer, as opposed to the unarmed security personnel.

“I would like to see more creativity and maybe out-of-the-box thinking in light of what happened, and especially the open campus at the high school,” she said. “Maybe we can talk to the police departments and maybe a security expert, just get outside opinions. Maybe we do need to get an outside third party security expert to evaluate.”

Schilder said it would cost about $75,000 to get a police officer, as opposed to a similar amount for five extra security personnel, some of whom might be former police officers.

“I asked Mr. Charleston if he had his druthers which he would want,” he said. “After a long pause, he said he would rather have five security.”

“Because of the spread and layout of the campus, he would rather have six people roaming the campus rather than two,” he added.

Board member Cindy Cullen said she thinks additional training for staff would be beneficial, thereby having 300 people vigilant, rather than just the five wandering campus.

“If we bring in a substantial number of security personnel, will the staff become less involved?” she asked. “Maybe we should think about training existing staff about how to be aware of what’s going on, rather than bringing in more people.”

Schilder said he does intend to continue training, but this eliminates the additional security outside.

“Those 300 people are inside and in classrooms,” he said. “There are huge areas that are very accessible, and this would be the primary purpose of the security personnel.”

In response to other questions from the board, Schilder said they can set aside money for studies and possible purchases for additional security, although that could end up being substantially more than $30,000.

“If that’s the case, the finance committee wrestles with that, and what tax levy they are comfortable with,” he said.

Board member Jeffrey Brookner said he is hesitant about going too far along with this, and expressed concerns that spending more money would just make people feel like they are more secure without actually providing the additional security.

“If there had been an armed security guard at the entrance to the school, he would have been the first victim,” he said. “Unless we are going to have SWAT teams patrolling, there is nothing that we can do.”

“I hate to say there is nothing we can do about it, and I don’t want there to be nothing,” he added, “but I really feel that the kind of money we’re talking about is more about making people feel we have security rather than actually having it.”

Discussions will continue on the level of security needed, but Schilder said everyone should remember that these initial discussions with the finance committee occurred before the tragedy in Connecticut.

“I don’t think the intention was ever to prevent something like what happened,” he said. “It was more like what we currently have, at the parking facility, to make sure no one comes on the facility, and that people don’t leave the facility.”

Revolution December 21, 2012 at 11:57 AM
This is definitely a good idea
Mike December 21, 2012 at 12:30 PM
You have to think long and hard: what will additional security be expected to do? What will they NOT be expected to do? And do you really think the union thugs, er, teachers, will be less vigilant, just because more security was hired? What a truly idiotic supposition. Brookner makes some good points. It's noteworthy that unlike the vast majority of high schools, BRHS has no dedicated security personnel other than the School Resource Officer assigned. Security personnel could range from warm bodies to retired cops licensed to carry a weapon, and anything in between. Right now, teachers are assigned duties during their off periods, and one of those duties is to "wander" (as Cullen is quoted above) the campus, but this is primarily to look for stray students, not Bushmaster-packing psychopaths. Something that should be looked at is intra-campus communications. If a teacher or security member sees something suspicious, reliable, instant communication with administrators and other security is a must. Alas, this boils down to how much $ the town is willing to pay for some peace of mind. Sadly, I suspect most of the folks without kids in the system would be against it; I challenge them to prove me wrong (that includes you, Raritan, who have passed 2 school budgets since 1964). Finally, I wonder how much the Board and administration consults with other districts to learn best practices.
Linda December 21, 2012 at 03:07 PM
Brookner shows how limited he is in his thinking, uninformed and uneducated about security if he feels there is "nothing that we can do" besides having a SWAT team there. This is why you would seek the opinion of experts as anyone would do in any area they are not educated about. Would you seek advice from your dentist about a legal matter? No. Geez, step outside the box.
Evan Lerner December 21, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Looking to other school districts for "best practices" makes a lot of sense when dealing with curricular and other educational matters and the administration does that on a regular basis (a list of some districts B-R looks to regularly on these matters can be found here: http://brrsd.k12.nj.us/curriculum.cfm?subpage=690). On security matters, however, the only time another district can provide information on what works and doesn't is unfortunately after its security measures failed. A better approach, I believe, is to seek guidance on the subject from experts in security. I hope that we do that. Money is, of course, a big issue in this discussion. A few years ago the board put a referendum on the ballot asking for additional funds, much of it intended for security. As you may recall, the voters voted "no." Notwithstanding the "no" vote, the board and administration, recognizing the importance of upgraded security, reallocated funds from the operating budget (which I believe did pass that year) to make security improvements, particularly at the K-6 buildings if I recall correctly. Evan Lerner The views expressed above are my own and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of any other board of education member or school administrator.
Kenneth Lee December 21, 2012 at 08:15 PM
There can be a number of ideas that can be looked at. Paying for a security service, has it's pros and cons. The better trained people will of course, come at a premium. If we hire College students and retirees, then we'll of course, be able to save money. Their purpose would merely be visual live deterrents. Is that good enough? I am not opposed to hiring a security service - we just need to fully understand, what their role will be. And of course, paying for these guards will further stretch our monetary resources and we will only be able to cover one or two schools. 1. Would we be able to put out a call for Volunteers? An all volunteer force composed predominantly of people with Military and Police backgrounds. An all volunteer force would be minimal in cost and expense. 2. If we limit this volunteer force to basically people with Military and Police backgrounds, then your force is ready trained from day one. They have already gone through the necessary background checks, have already been through rigorous training and have the necessary experience to protect our children, teachers, staff and grounds. 3. With enough volunteers, we can cover the High School, and every school in the district. With enough volunteers, we can cover various schedules - including weekends and nights. 4. With their background, the district has a choice - do they carry a weapon or not? Even with a simple baton, these people will be highly effective due to their training.
Kenneth Lee December 21, 2012 at 08:35 PM
There are yet other options with which to take a look at. 1. The District can purchase Guard Dogs. We have access to the best dogs with the best temperament from the best breeders and we also have access to the best trainers in the Nation. There are pros and cons to having a dog that can be discussed, but it's an option, none-the-less. 2. Security Cameras are awesome for a number of reasons and are fairly inexpensive. These two options cost money and I would hope that we could raise the money without raising taxes. We could do the fundraisers and we could also see if the District would be interested in allowing a more amicable environment for vendors who donate their services and products to the schools. Nothing is fool proof and any clown who is bent on damaging the district will do so. We must try to prevent that if we can, but then to minimize the problem after that. If we do opt for an all volunteer force, we need to ensure that we keep this force engaged. It's a crucial function that they perform for us. They are giving us their time, knowledge, experience, expertise, money and possibly their lives. These are some of the best values for the District that I can think of. Are there any other ideas out there?
BD December 21, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I guess not jumping to ridiculous reactionary conclusions and instead creating a school environment which is associated with peace and learning rather than paranoia and violence is no longer an option?
Jeffrey Brookner December 21, 2012 at 09:14 PM
I agree that decisions about security should not be made without input from experts. I was simply trying to temper expectations about what we can expect to accomplish with our limited resources. In particular, I don’t think anything we can prevent the type of tragedy that occurred in Connecticut. If (God forbid) someone shows up at one of our schools with military-grade weaponry, forcibly breaks in, and starts shooting, they are going to kill people. This is terrifying, but true. I did NOT say, and do NOT believe, that we should ignore security. There are many valid reasons to explore additional security options, and this will require thinking outside the box. But to come into it with the expectation that we can prevent a shootout is, in my opinion, misplaced. The saving grace in all of this is that these events are extraordinarily rare.
Linda December 21, 2012 at 09:55 PM
I agree that the possibility of it happening is minimal, although I'm sure they felt the same in Sandy Hookuntil a week ago. Yes, if a psychopath is hell bent on doing damage, they are going to do damage. The question is, how can the damage be reduced? What kind of preventative measures can be put in place and also of great importance is what measures would be most likely to stop the psychopath if such a horror were to occur.
Laurie VanValkenburgh December 22, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Sure and once armed guard or dog attacks & kills a someone attacking the school you'll have the bleeding heart parents suing the township because he or she was really a good kid & no one ever thought this kid would do harm. Teachers & students need to step up and speak up about individuals they suspect may do harm. Hopefully some of the postings on social media made by our own students after the CT tragedy are being investigated. I do think cameras are a good idea, has to be one of the least expensive options even with the cost of hiring someone to monitor them. Especially since the BRHS is an open campus (who's great idea was it anyway to build an open campus in NJ!)
Colette Baumbusch December 22, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Not sure how we can make our high school safer with the security we have now when they can't prevent items from being stolen on a daily basis in the school. I have never seen a guard posted at a parking lot. I have volunteered in the high school many times, parked in teachers parking and walked directly into the school by the gym with not one person questioning me.
BD December 24, 2012 at 06:08 PM
These are the people who think they know what's right for our children. Hateful gun nuts who are unable to see the difference between one psychotic gunman and a horde of racist trigger happy security guards who are hundreds of thousands of times more likely to cause an injury to an innocent person, and 100% likely to create a negative environment of fear and paranoia in the school instead of one of peace and learning.
BD December 24, 2012 at 06:09 PM
You are absolutely right that procedures are needed to ensure security. That doesn't mean the community needs a bunch of armed guards surrounding the halls of learning.
Gary January 22, 2013 at 02:58 PM
Lest we forget BRHS already had a terrorist attempt. Note the operative word "attempt" (and yes I have a child in the HS) as it wasn't some armed police, nor a citizen with conceal carry permit that foiled the plot, but instead an unarmed student. Now, I'm not trying to minimize the tragedy of Sandy Hook, but fact of the matter is SH is not the first school to be attacked, nor most likely will it be the last. However, that said, as was the case with Aurora (both the school and theater), and as is the case with most mass-murder attempts the perperatrator communicates to someone ahead of time; an almost cry-for-help. Simply educating parents, students, teachers, administrators...of this well documented fact has probably a greater efficacy than providing any armed security. Even in the event there are armed personnel and even if the personnel are trained there is no guarantee of the desired out come. Just some food for thought....

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