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Schools Move to Reassure Families After Newtown Killings

Shootings at Columbine more than a decade ago opened educators' eyes to the need for stringent school safety,

As the news from Newtown, CT, unfolded on Friday, New Jersey's schools started sending emails of reassurance to families, letting them know that local schools remained safe places for their children.

during their Friday dismissals, just for a show of presence. In a few, they are also expected to be there on Monday.

But over the weekend another response was less visible in many New Jersey schools, as superintendents and principals made quieter plans: meet with staff, go over safety procedures, and be especially alert to the emotions of students and staff in the days ahead.

“If any students are particularly concerned, or seem emotional about the news they have heard, please alert a counselor or administrator in your building,” wrote Perth Amboy superintendent Janine Caffrey to her staff last night.

“Our counselors and administrators have had training in responding to this sort of situation, and are ready to assist any student in need,” she added.

It’s a long way from the weeks and months that followed the events of 13 years ago, when New Jersey and the rest of the nation were jolted awake to the reality of school violence with the shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado.

At that time, schools were far less prepared to deal with the causes and the impact of such acts. School safety was not foreign, by any means, but prevention was nowhere near as stringent – and mandated -- as it is today.

Now, every New Jersey school is required by law to hold monthly security drills, and safety procedures are standard. Counselors are at the ready, and the state just this year added still more requirements: by October 15 every school must address cybercrimes and improve communications and surveillance .

That’s not to say every school follows these measures to the letter, but lockdown drills and camera monitors at school entrances are now commonplace. Not only do local police practice “active shooter” responses, but schools do as well.

“That was a new frontier back then,” said Adam Fried, superintendent of Harrington Park’s one-school district in Bergen County and a middle school vice principal at the time of Columbine shootings. “What do we do, who do we talk to? It was rough.”

“That changed it for a lot of us,” he said. “Security measures, making sure we are supporting the kids, we all do that.”

Harrington Park even now has “crash kits” of water and food in every classroom in case of an extended lockdown, Fried said. Still, Friday’s shooting was a jolt in its own right.

“This time, we woke up to a new reality,” he said. “An elementary school had been attacked . . . These were six year old kids.”

Continue reading on NJSpotlight.com.

NJ Spotlight is an issue-driven news website that provides critical insight to New Jersey’s communities and businesses. It is non-partisan, independent, policy-centered and community-minded.

Joe R December 19, 2012 at 04:53 PM
From Jeffrey Sachs: "More basically, the idea that unregulated private gun ownership and trade protects us against tyranny, or that gun controls would threaten tyranny to us all, is baseless. Democracies around the world regulate guns, preserve their freedoms, and achieve firearm murder rates that are a tiny fraction of the rates suffered in the United States. Other countries, like Australia, have made themselves much safer from gun massacres. Only the U.S. has a political class, on the take from gun manufacturers owned by Wall Street, that stands by while the nation's children are slaughtered. Yet perhaps the stench is getting even too great for some on Wall Street. In the name of the children, let us wake from the trap of ancient history and the gun-manufacturers"
Joe R December 19, 2012 at 05:09 PM
Are we living in Afghanistan? We have to live in continual fear that some maniac armed with a semi-automatic and an extended magazine that can shoot off multiple shots in a few seconds and kill a whole classroom of kids in a minute or two. So the solution du jour of the gun freaks is to arm the teachers, the principal, the janitor, the speech therapist, the physical education teacher, the school psychologist, the music teacher?!? In other words, we are living in an armed camp and we could have gun duels in kindergarten classrooms? This country is awash in guns and we are most definitely not any safer for having all these guns. And yet the NRA solution is more guns and let's arm the teachers. Oh wait, the nice gun folks tell us that the real problem is mental health, not gun laws, we have enough gun laws and by the way cars kill more people than guns and by the way, you don't know anything about guns so shut up and go away and let the adult gun owners make all the decisions.

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