SPARTA, NJ –As a show of unity and protest for the school shooting in Parkland Florida one month ago, a couple hundred Sparta High School students walked out of school, standing in silence for 17 minutes. Each minute represented each of the students killed in the school shooting.
Sparta students joined with students across the country on Wednesday at 10 a.m. Nearly 60 students remained in the cafeteria as others walked to the parking lot. Several staff members, Principal Janet Ferraro, Assistant Principals Rory Fitzgerald and Steve Schels, Superintendent Dr. Michael Rossi and three Sparta Police Officers escorted the students in their walk out.
“I think today's expression of our democratic right to protest and express ourselves in a coordinated and non-violent way was outstanding,” Rossi said.
Ferraro addressed the students over the loud speaker prior to the walk out explaining the procedure and expectations for the students who chose to participate. Teachers and officers observed the students, ensuring their safety and that the conduct of the students met expectations.
After 17 minutes outside, the students, staff and officers returned to the building. The students were given the opportunity to join a panel discussion in the auditorium. The panel was comprised of the police officers, school and district administrators, as well as members of the child study team, should question arise regarding mental health issues, Ferraro explained.
Approximately 50 students attended the discussion. The students asked “good thoughtful questions,” according to Ferraro. Their questions centered around "the security within Sparta High School" Ferraro said.
When a student asked why they continue to have lock-down drills when it appears that makes them vulnerable. Ferraro spoke about the difference between a shelter in place drill and a lock-down drill, the latter requiring silence and other components not required in a shelter in place drill.
She explained about an initiative anticipated to be implemented over the summer to geomap all of the school buildings, allowing law enforcement to have a clear understanding of where exactly a threat may be as well as a more targeted response to a threat. The Critical Response Group will work through the Sparta Police Department to create the database of each Sparta school. The initiative is funded by a grant Sparta Chief Neil Spidaletto told TAPinto Sparta in a recent interview.
A police officer explained to the student “concrete is the strongest barrier” available in a school and that the drills are in response to what law enforcement recommends.
When another student asked about arming teachers, Rossi reiterated his position that he is adamantly against having teachers carry guns.
“Our students demonstrated once again the quality character of our students and the district,” Rossi said.
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