In a statement following the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Fla., NJSBA Executive Director Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod cited the magnitude of the Feb. 14 tragedy, and offered guidance for school districts seeking to take action to safeguard the safety of students.
Security in schools has been on the collective minds of the nation after the murders of 17 people – 14 students and three teachers – at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, the latest in a series of mass shootings in U.S. schools.
“When we experience a tragedy of the magnitude of (the) school shooting in South Florida, there is a static in the air that drives the sorrow to your core. For school board members, administrators, teachers and parents, there is also the feeling of urgency, the need to take action to see what else we can do to safeguard our students,” Dr. Feinsod wrote.
NJSBA has been vigilant on the issue of school security, and offers numerous resources for school boards and districts seeking guidance. (See resources below.)
Governor Announces Action Gov. Phil Murphy this week held a press conference to announce his administration is making a coordinated effort with state law enforcement agencies and the state Legislature to improve school safety following the Parkland shooting.
Murphy announced that law enforcement agencies in New Jersey will work to improve inter-agency communication and awareness of individuals who potentially pose heightened safety risks. The state Attorney General’s Office will review New Jersey’s school safety directives to ensure state policies are at the national forefront; the state Department of Homeland Security will expand suspicious activity reporting training to include bus drivers and educators; and the State Police plans to start regular, unannounced, officer visits to all 107 schools in their areas of responsibility.
Murphy also recommitted to working with the New Jersey Legislature to pass common-sense gun reforms, including a bill to better limit those with mental illness from being able to purchase firearms, and he repeated his commitment to signing gun safety laws that reach his desk.
Following the shooting, students have become activists in states from Florida to New Jersey, and more demonstrations are planned.
“Ultimately, a resolution will require action that’s beyond the reach of the schoolhouse, central office or board meeting room,” Dr. Feinsod said. “However, it is incumbent that boards of education and their administrations take immediate action to review the policies and procedures in place to ensure student health and safety.”
Below are resources available to local boards of education:
- An excellent starting point is NJSBA’s report What Makes Schools Safe. It resulted from a year-long study by the Association’s task force on school security and student safety, created following the Sandy Hook tragedy. Four years after its release, much of the information in the report remains relevant. It provides recommendations on subjects, ranging from school security plans and emergency response procedures to prevention strategies that involve facility upgrades, school climate and education programs for students.
- Other resources are the New Jersey School Security Task Force Report and Recommendations (2015) and the Report of the New Jersey SAFE Task Force on Gun Protection, Addiction, Mental Health and Families, and Education Safety (2013).
- The relationship between law enforcement and the school district is an essential component to ensure student safety. New Jersey requires every school board to have a Memorandum of Agreement with its local law enforcement agency. NJSBA’s Policy Unit is available to provide information and guidance on the school district’s relationship with law enforcement, as well as emergency and disaster preparedness, school building access, transportation safety and other topics relevant to the safety of our students.