Schools Enhance Security—Is It Enough?
Neighboring Mt. Olive High School on cusp of hiring full time, armed retired police officer.
The security of students in school has become a national issue in the past month, after a 20-year-old man opened fire in a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school, killing 26 people before turning the gun on himself.
Locally, steps have been taken to enhance security measures in various school districts. In Marlboro, New Jersey, the school district’s board of education approved the implementation of armed security guards in each of the town’s nine school buildings less than a week after the Connecticut shooting.
On Thursday, it was announced by neighboring school district Mt. Olive that the high school there is one board of education vote away from installing an armed, retired police officer in that building.
The topic has now been brought up on a number of occasions within the Washington Township and West Morris Regional School districts, with the respective boards considering changes and enhancements to the plans already in place.
For the K-8 district, a stricter visitation procedure was implemented on Jan. 2 once schools came back from winter break. In a statement to the community on Dec. 31, 2012 announcing the change in protocol, all building principals, Superintendent Jeff Mohre and Assistant Superintendent Rick Papera said:
Please not that the new visitor protocol is not designed to prevent your active involvement in your schools, but rather to create a safer school environment for our community's children.
Mohre was not immediately available for comment Thursday.
Following the Newtown tragedy, West Morris Regional High School Superintendent Mackey Pendergrast stated, “The West Morris Regional High School District has a comprehensive security plan in place that has been developed in concert with our local police departments."
Pendergrast said at the school board’s most recent meeting he was still in the process of speaking with the area’s police chiefs regarding the matter.
"The conversations are always ongoing," Pendergrast said Thursday. "We're looking at what we can do immediately–extra locks, cameras, the concept of panic buttons–and long term. It's all being discussed, much of it at the building level with the principals and staff."
Pendergrast also said that in the time since Newtown, no parent or board member has made mention of implementing an armed guard in the schools the way Mt. Olive may or Marlboro already has.
Both West Morris Central and Mendham High Schools will receive visits from members of the Morris County Prosecutor's Office for security assessments, Pendergrast said, to evaluate what else can be done to make the schools secure.
With the recent developments in Mt. Olive and the discussions by local school boards, what is your take on this matter? Do armed guards have a place in schools for security?
Editor’s Note: Long Valley Patch posed this question in late December, which garnered dozens of comments. This post has an additional poll to vote in and seeks your comments once more. Please keep them on-topic and civil for the sake of the conversation. Thank you.