BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Bernards Township's four elementary schools should have police officers posted at each of them, either township officers or recently retired police officers who can serve as "special resource officers," four mothers told the Bernards Township Committee last week.
"We need to keep our schools safe," said one of the mothers, Lauren Salko. Along with providing protection, she added that having officers in schools might also offer additional benefits, such as building a positive relationship between police and students.
Salko and two other mothers said they agreed with the first speaker, who told the Township Committee last Tuesday, "I am concerned that there are no SROs [special resource officers] at our elementary schools." That mother added that she believes that supplemental protection might be needed at the William Annin Middle School and Ridge High School.
Another speaker, Sherry Nelson, also said there is a need for police officers in elementary schools. "There's been too many of these tragedies to ignore the need at every school," she said.
Bernards Township Committeewoman Carol Bianchi responded to the parents that school safety is a top issue for the township, as well as the school district. "We will continue to work with the Board of Education," she said.
Following a Feb. 14 shooting at a Florida high school that killed 17 students or staff members, the subject of student safety in schools is being discussed in school districts around the nation.
School safety discussed at Bernards school board meeting
At the next Board of Education meeting following the Florida shooting, school officials and Acting Bernards Police Chief Mike Shimsky addressed the issue, and said district is working on tightening security in schools.
Shimsky told parents that they might expect to see increased police presence at township schools.
“We spend a lot of time and money preparing for things we hope never happen,” Shimsky added at the February school board meeting. The probability of anything happening here was very low, but no less risky than any other school in America, he said.
Early in March, Bernards Township's police chief, mayor and school officials issued a joint statement that they were intending to meet within a few days "to review our plans and preparations to protect our children to see if there is more that we can/should do" in regards to school safety.