BRIDGEWATER, NJ - Superintendent of Schools Russell Lazovick sent a message to parents and community members Friday regarding security and safety in the district following the shooting that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Florida, Wednesday.
In the message, Lazovick outlined new response protocols for the district, plans regarding regular drills and the district's work with the Somerset County Joint Task Force of Educators and Law Enforcement.
In addition, Lazovick outlined work the district is doing for the health and wellness of students and staff.
The entire message is reprinted below:
Dear Members of the Bridgewater-Raritan School Community,
I am reaching out to you regarding the recent events in Florida. Events like this impact individuals differently and they reinforce the importance of the work we do every day to maintain the safest environments in our schools and to support all of our students based on their individual needs. Events like these reinforce the core of our mission statement which is that community is key.
As will happen after such an incident, community members have reached out seeking information. The safety of our schools is paramount and the school district has always maintained a comprehensive safety plan. This year we transitioned to a new response protocol as part of a county-wide initiative to improve coordination between schools and emergency responders. We drill regularly with staff and with students to be prepared and we work to communicate effectively with parents and the larger community. We work daily with the police departments of Bridgewater and Raritan. Both departments have regular patrols that focus on our schools, their officers are in our buildings consistently and work with our staff, and we have two full-time officers specifically assigned to our schools. We are part of the Somerset County Joint Task Force of Educators and Law Enforcement which brings together emergency response personnel and school administrators from across the county. Even with all of these in place, safety was one of the six areas of action defined by our recent strategic work. We restructured our administration to focus on safety and we have law enforcement, district staff, and members of the community serving on our Safety Action Team, which is focused on a full assessment of our practices and facilities district wide.
We are also always focused on the health and well-being of our students and staff. We design our curriculum and instruction to engage students in lessons that build healthy minds and bodies. Highly qualified staff are present in every building, not just for instruction, but to support students struggling with any type of issue. We are connected with supports from the county, the state, and private industry that allow us to help students beyond the walls of our schools and after they leave us. Our strategic plan has focused on this area as well with the creation of the Health and Wellness Action Team that is working on issues including mental health, self-harm, homework, and stress to name a few.
Communication is paramount in this work. Within the district, we share information between professionals to ensure we are working together to support our students. We need your help as well. If you have information that a student may be in crisis we encourage you to reach out to a building administrator. Community is key.
I have written about the challenges of social media before, and we continue to ask you and our students to let us know if they see posts on social media that make them uncomfortable. Whether through social media or any other means, if our students are uncomfortable or come across concerning information they are encouraged to communicate with an adult. We encourage you to do the same. Please reach out to any of the building administrators or to the district office staff with any information you think is important.
Below are two resources that may help you think through a variety of topics and help you have conversations with your children, as appropriate. We will continue to do so in school and we are here if you have questions. Keeping our B-R Community safe is a responsibility “We, One and All,” share.
Resources for Discussing Violence with Children
- National Association of School Psychologists
- Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- Magellan Health
- Coping with Violence