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NJ Forum Addresses School Safety After Newtown

“To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” -Theodore Roosevelt

School is about teaching more than English, math and science.  

It is also about building character, modeling behavior and nurturing all children.

“What we do today and what we do after today honors the children of Newtown, but more importantly it honors the children in our schools today,” said Dr. Maurice Elias, director of clinical training at the Rutgers University Department of Psychology, a nationally recognized expert in community and preventive psychology and school intervention. 

Elias was the keynote speaker at a New Jersey School Boards Association forum, Safe and Secure Schools: Perspectives after Newtown,” at The College of New Jersey on Friday morning. Hundreds of parents, educators, school board members and law enforcement attended to discuss school safety and security. 

“The data are speaking to us very clearly that the climate of the school is part of the overall package of creating a safe environment for our schools,” Elias said. “School climate assessment should be just as important as academic assessment. It is probably more important from a public health point of view.”

It’s not about armed guns or metal detectors. It’s about character development. And parents are not solely responsible for that.

“Just as you would not expect parents to be the science teachers of our kids, you can not expect parents to be the sole character builders of our kids. It’s a community responsibility,” Elias said.

When it comes to implementing changes or specific security measures make sure it’s not a knee jerk reaction, police and New Jersey Department of Education representatives say.

South Brunswick Police Chief Raymond Hayducka said his department focuses on school drills, a visible police presence and constant communication between police and the schools, parents and community.

What about putting armed security guards in schools?

“I am not in favor of this plan at all,” Hayducka said, saying security guards and retired police officers typically don’t have up-to-date training, police powers or access to police procedures.

“My feeling is armed security will present a false sense of security,” he said.

In Burlington Township Public Schools, Chief Education Director Dr. Christopher Manno said he and his local police director formed a task force eight years ago to help address community discomfort about police in schools.

The group, now known as the Emergency Preparedness Task Force, includes representatives from police, fire, ems, board of education, security experts, risk management and the muncipal governing body. It meets three times a year.

“Our mantra is ‘If we shake hands before the incident, we will not point fingers after the incident,’” Manno said. Working together, the task’s force’s efforts have made community members feel more comfortable when they see police or police cruisers in and around local schools. “Our belief is that school security and safety cannot be completed by simply installing cameras, locks and security systems. The foundation of strong security is a relationship that makes school security everyone’s priority.”

Robert Way January 23, 2013 at 01:46 AM
I fail to see how school security was "addressed" by those parties mentioned in this article. Beyond them meeting once every three years and agreeing not to blame each other when bad things happen, it seems making people "more comfortable" when they see an officer in or around school was the only output from the task force. While I am sure Police Chief Hayducka serves his community well and his opinion is held in very high regard, would he agree that a community outreach program, such as the one put together by Burlington Township as mentioned, only serves to create the same false sense of security that placing armed security in the schools does? If the dedicated security guard were in fact a police officer assigned to each school, would that too create a false sense of security? After all, that resource would "have up-to-date training, police powers or access to police procedures". I have advocated for a comprehensive approach to determining what is best for the security of the schools in other threads here on The Patch. A level of effort that includes local law enforcement, school administration, parents, and perhaps 3rd party security consulting organizations working together to develop a handful of different approaches to school security that would add to what is already in place.
Robert Way January 23, 2013 at 01:47 AM
Plans that include further refinement of current procedures in the event of a situation, further measures to harden the physical aspects of facility infrastructure, evaluation of advanced surveillance systems, and yes, exploration of dedicated armed security staff at each school be they 3rd party or local law enforcement. I fully support an effort that seeks to achieve a "good, better, best" plan approach to improving security in our schools. "Good" perhaps being hardening of the physical infrastructure at major points of entry. "Better" may add an advanced surveillance system manned by a dedicated resource that can better react to a suspicious person attempting to enter the building somewhere other than the front entrance, shortening the time it takes to get the local authorities notified and onsite. This is an approach that would seek not to just make people "feel comfortable" but create some actionable paths the taxpayer can approve or disapprove and put more power in the hands of the parents to determine what cost they want to bear "for the children", or maybe only reading programs are "for the children".
Robert Way January 23, 2013 at 01:47 AM
As for former President Roosevelt's comment, sorry, but no, the public school does not carry the burden of educating my child regarding morality. That responsibility belongs to my wife and I and those family members and friends we entrust with it. I'd like to know who or what the author of this article feels is the moral authority our public schools should be guided by?


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