NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ – Board President Adam Smith took a moment to reflect on the recent school shooting in Florida in order to address safety concerns at the Thursday, Feb. 22 Board of Education (BOE) meeting.
Smith noted that the board is “deeply saddened” by the Florida incident. The recent shooting has created a lot of social media chatter. This board and the school administration “take safety seriously,” he stated. The district has a set of procedures in place in the event of a security incident; however the district is not sharing those procedures with the public for security reasons.
The district has recently upgraded its security systems in all schools. These include security vestibules and cameras with a real time feed to the Police Department. The doors remain locked and there is a protocol for visitors. The staff must wear identification cards and all doors have automatic locking systems.
We work extremely hard to create a culture in which “no child feels ostracized” through our character education, Smith said. When the kids feel good about themselves they feel secure and do not act violently. However, the district takes every threat seriously and any threat is fully investigated. “We are doing everything in our power to keep our children safe,” Smith stated.
A couple of parents spoke out regarding security issues during the public comments session.
Mary O’Keefe spoke about the movement on social media to organize a national walk out on March 14 at 10 am for 17 minutes. Smith noted that any event that is organized on school property has to be cleared through proper channels. The organizers have to talk to the principals of each school where the event is planned. The principals will then bring the issue to the district administration.
O’Keefe also talked about the new push for armed guards at schools and arming teachers with guns. She also recommended that the district familiarize itself regarding educational Sandy Hook programs that advise students what to do if they suspect that someone is planning a violent act. Smith noted that a year ago the district had representatives from Sandy Hook visit the schools and advise the district about security matters. The district and the school community had previously decided that there is no need for armed guards or metal detectors in New Providence schools.
Another parent brought up a recent incident at the middle school level that ended up becoming a police matter. She asked when the parents will be informed about this incident. Smith noted that juvenile police investigations are confidential. However, if students were “at risk” the district would communicate with parents.