MORRIS TOWNSHIP, NJ - First she sent a letter to her representative from Congress. Then she followed up with an in-person plea.

Chatham Middle School 7th Grader Alessa Cooney got a face-to-face audience with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill on Monday afternoon when she attended Sherrill's appearance at Loantaka Brook Reservation, where she spoke about environmental funding. Cooney approached the congresswoman and made her case in a speech she had rehearsed the night before.

"I spoke to her about gun control and the issues that concern me," the 12-year-old said. "My sister goes to Chatham High School and they recently got a school resource officer (Class III Officer) for the school. She spoke to the board of ed about how she and some of the other students don't feel safe with it. They said they appreciated her efforts but the decision had pretty much already been made.

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"I just don't see how putting one more gun in the situation is going to help and it concerns me. I don't mistrust (the officer) but someone could do something wrong and I don't want my sister put in that position."

Junior Siena Cooney had been one of the students who petitioned the Chatham Board of Education at its meeting last Feb. 4 to reconsider the hiring of a Class III armed officer.