In The Schools

Belmar Mayor: Taking ‘Extreme Step’ to Place Police Officer at Belmar Elementary School

The U.S. flag at Belmar Elementary School flies at half-staff to mourn the 17 victims in Parkland, Fla. A police officer is expected to be placed at the school in the aftermath of that mass shooting. Credits: Cathy Goetz

BELMAR, NJ — A Belmar police officer will soon be placed at Belmar Elementary School — an action prompted by the recent mass shooting at a Parkland, Fla., high school.

Making the announcement at the borough council’s February 20 meeting, Mayor Matthew Doherty called it “a pretty extreme step for us as a town. But in this day and age, to hope that something doesn’t happen here is not a strategy. Putting a police officer at (Belmar Elementary School) will serve as a deterrent, and he will be there to protect students, teachers and administrators. He will also serve as a resource at the school.”

Currently, Doherty said he is working with Police Chief Andrew Huisman, BES Superintendent David Hallman and Borough Administrator Colleen Connolly, to “come up with a good match” in selecting a police officer, and he expects a decision to be made soon.

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On February 14, the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., resulted in 17 deaths and numerous injuries — the second deadliest shooting at a U.S. public school. Across the country, the tragedy has opened conversation about gun reform, mental illness and school safety.

At Belmar Elementary School, safety measures for its some 540 students — in prekindergarten through eighth grade — have been in place to protect against acts of violence, according to Connolly.

Since 2013, Belmar has participated in the Active Shooter Partnership program with other local school districts, providing training in “active shooter” situations.

Since its crossing guards are police officers, there is a “strong law enforcement presence around the school,” Connolly added.

Also, BES conducts lock-down drills with the police department as required by state law, and a Belmar police officer is assigned at Belmar Elementary School and St. Rose Grammar and High Schools to serve as a liaison.

BES also participates in L.E.A.D. (Law Enforcement Against Drugs), a comprehensive initiative to prevent drug abuse, deter drug-related crimes, and eliminate violence and bullying. Led by Executive Director and CEO Nick DeMauro of Lake Como, the statewide nonprofit group is supported by law enforcement officers working in collaboration with educators, community leaders, families and support organizations.

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