As President Obama said, our hearts are broken and heavy. At no time in modern history have six- and seven-year-olds been slaughtered one by one by one in an elementary school. The sight of parents being ushered into the firehouse last Friday and the sound of their cries as they learned that their babies died is something I will never forget.
Starting today, boards of education and their superintendents will begin hearing questions from parents about the security of their districts’ schools. Your Association knows that school board members will need guidance and help.
Our immediate advice is this: review your security procedures, including crisis plans, agreements with local law enforcement, security drills, etc. Make sure that all elements, including restricted access to school buildings, are in place and that all state laws and regulations concerning student safety are diligently followed. Communicate these facts to parents; they need and deserve the reassurance.
New Jersey has extensive and strong security in place for its schools. But so did the Sandy Hook Elementary School. Friday, December 14 was a game-changer—an armed adult shooting his way into a secure school building and systematically murdering children and teachers.
It’s incumbent upon all of us—education officials at the local and state levels—to rethink school security, to consider factors not imagined prior to December 14, and to try to project situations that have not yet occurred to us.
NJSBA does not have all the answers. But we are in the process of leading you to the guidance and direction you need.
In mid-January, the Association will sponsor a forum, featuring security experts, representatives of state and local law enforcement, officials of school districts that have successfully met security crises, and experts in behavioral psychology. For school board members and administrative staff, the forum will represent a start toward finding answers.
The answers will come then. Right now, it’s time for sincere reflection. As NJSBA President John Bulina and I said in a statement issued on December 14 following the tragedy—
“In the weeks and months ahead, we can expect to hear extensive discussion about school safety in every state capital throughout the nation. For now, however, the New Jersey School Boards Association offers its sincerest sympathy to the Connecticut school community.”
These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Post your thoughts below, or contact me at [email protected].