NJ school officials getting training on handling school shootings
As New Jersey students begin their summer break, representatives of every school district in the state are heading back to class this week for specialized security training.
The New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy is holding a four-day program in different locations across the Garden State.
Ben Castillo, the director of the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning, said a law was passed last year requiring all districts to appoint a school safety specialist.
“Those folks are tasked with being a central repository for best practices, training standards, compliance oversight and anything that has to do with school security," he said.
He said the administrators serving as the school safety specialists will get instruction in a number of areas including “responding to bomb threats, bus transportation, threat assessment, behavioral threat assessment and things like after-school events, how to best secure those events.”
The program will also cover “internet safety, emergency drills, drugs, weapons, school policing.”
He explained after every school schooling, wherever it takes place, best practices are reviewed to try and improve response, prevention and recovery.
Castillo said response to an active shooter situation at a school is highly situational. However, he said, “from what we’ve seen here in our state, the thing that probably serves us best would be trying to lock down, getting into that safe corner.”
“We realize, of course, that there are situations where that might not be possible," he said. “If you can’t lock down then you’re going to have to try to get out.”
And if that’s not possible, “face that threat and do what you can to protect yourself and others.”
He noted in drill situations or even in an actual emergency, “we like to err on the side of providing as much information to the parents as possible. Keeping the parents informed as much as you can is the best way to go.”
Castillo said one main focus of school security that has changed somewhat over the past few years is prevention and the importance of behavioral threat assessment.
This week’s training will take place in East Rutherford, Phillipsburg, Robbinsville and Mays Landing. A second Academy session is planned for August.
“We’re working the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the State Police, the Department of Health, the county prosecutors and we deal with local police as well," he said. “Security can be inconvenient, but we ask parents to abide by our security guidelines. They are all in in place to protect everyone in school.”
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You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com