SCOTCH PLAINS/FANWOOD, NJ – The topic of school safety in the SPFK12 school district was a major topic of discussion at the Scotch Plains Council meeting on February 20, following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, in which 17 students and teachers were killed in Florida.
The Council invited Scotch Plains Police Chief Ted Conley to update the public on safety issues at the eight local schools (five elementary, two middle, and one high school) in the district. Chief Conley told the Council that the Scotch Plains and Fanwood police have an ongoing dialog with school officials.
“The district maintains a list of students who have been expelled and/or might pose a threat which is shared with police,” Chief Conley explained, adding that any threat is investigated and urging the public to get involved if they see something unusual.
“If you see something, say something,” the police chief said. “In almost every one of these tragedies, somebody knew. People have spoken out, and we encourage them to continue. We have such good residents; it’s like having 24,000 extra eyes and ears in this town.”
Chief Conley explained that police officers from both departments are on site at the beginning and end of the school day and are a presence in the school during classroom hours.
“Think back to days of Columbine when we didn’t have active shooter situations. After Columbine, things have changed,” Chief Conley said, adding that his department has outstanding relationships with the Board of Education and Fanwood police. “We have random walk-throughs, and make sure no schools are overlapped. We don’t want to tell people because we don’t want them (potential intruders) to know.”
Councilman John Del Sordi believes it is time to look at have greater police presence in Scotch Plains-Fanwood schools.
“Mayor, I’d like to have you involved,” Del Sordi said. “We should start with the high school.”
One idea that Chief Conley suggested is to look at having Special Law Enforcement Officers (SLEO) Class III in each school.
"They are retired law enforcement officers who have retired in good standing and are under the age of 65. They have to register within three years from the date of their retirement and be hired on a part time basis,” Chief Conley said. "They know the procedures and would be armed."