BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ – The Thursday, Feb. 22, Board of Education meeting was the first since the Feb. 14 mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Superintendent of Schools Judith A. Ratner focused her remarks on school safety that evening.

She has since posted her “Mission Moment” remarks on the school district website here and TAPinto is republishing them below.

In the wake of the tragedy in Florida I want to take a moment to reiterate that keeping our students safe continues to be our top priority. I want you to know that we are committed daily to the safety of our students and staff. Some of the things we’ve done recently include adding secure vestibules in each of our buildings, installing a sophisticated camera system in all of our schools and a monitored card reader entrance system in all of our buildings. The school district continues to maintain a comprehensive safety plan. Threat assessment is also a huge part of school safety. To that end we have a strong partnership with law enforcement. There is a police presence in our schools on a regular basis. We share information, collaborate, assess and eliminate potential threats as they are identified.

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There is nothing more tragic than the loss of innocent children’s lives to acts of violence. Violent acts such as these take an emotional toll on each of us. From the moment a child boards the school bus, or a student passes through the doors of one of our schools, no parent should ever have to worry if their child will be safe. No teacher should ever have to fear for the safety of their students or themselves. We continue to work with law enforcement officials in Berkeley Heights and Mountainside as we review student and school safety protocols and procedures, to identify any areas we may need to change or areas we might be able to enhance in order to keep our children and school community – even safer. Our district crisis response team meets regularly to examine the school crisis response plans and ensure that they are revised and aligned with current guidance and best practices. Specifically, these protocols pertain to preparedness and response. School staff and students alike are trained. This training and awareness is a continuous process and schools conduct drills on a regular basis.

This terrible event serves as another reminder for all of us to remain vigilant. If anyone sees or hears something, please say something. If you have information regarding a specific school threat or are concerned about a student who may be in crisis, please contact authorities immediately. As always, report any suspicious people, vehicles, or circumstances to 9-1-1 right away. On the other hand, please do not share rumors on social media, and please discourage your children from doing so. Continue to monitor what your children are putting on social media and have conversations with them about current events. Students who demonstrate recklessness on social media may be faced with significant consequences if their posts are considered to be a threat. Many potentially dangerous situations across our nation have been avoided because a parent, student, or teacher alerted the proper authorities. But we need your support. If you see something in the community that is of concern, contact the local police department. If you think one of our students needs assistance, contact a building or district administrator immediately. Additionally, we have posted resources on our website to help parents navigate the challenging conversations with their children regarding violence and loss.  

Together we can continue to make our schools safer and to provide a bright future for every student in our community. Student safety is our top priority. We must stand together and be watchful – the safety of our children needs to be everyone’s priority!

As our next BOE meeting on March 8, we will provide a School Safety and Security Presentation in concert with the Berkeley Heights Police Department.