Even with armed security, it’s not enough to keep NJ schools safe
With school districts across New Jersey finalizing plans to have students return to class next month, school security is a top-priority issue, especially after the horrific shooting tragedy in Uvalde, Texas last spring that claimed the lives of 19 children and two teachers.
Every Garden State School has a safety plan in place that has been coordinated with local police and their county prosecutor's office, and a growing number of districts have been approving proposals to have armed guards protecting students, teachers and other school employees.
According to Rich Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, the Garden State is certainly ahead of the curve when it comes to security but existing protocols are being reviewed to make schools as safe as possible.
He pointed out many schools have video surveillance at their locked front doors to check out visitors before they enter the building, but that's not enough.
Bozza said “doing that doesn’t mean somebody can’t get into a building."
"They could follow someone in who has a key pass, or a door could be left open," he said.
He said having video cameras, state-of-the-art door and window locks are important.
“They create a sense of security, but as I said, it’s not total security: it really goes back to the people in the school being alert, following the practices, making sure the doors are closed, keeping a wary eye if you will for visitors in the building.”
At the same time, he said we have to remember schools are relatively open environments, with kids walking to school and playing on playgrounds, so we have to have a balance.
School is not a prison
“It’s really not a prison mentality. It’s one of being sure that we can maintain security with a balance of students feeling safe but free to move around the building and do the things that children normally do,” he said.
When it comes to having armed guards in school Bozza said some Jersey parents are strongly in favor of it while others are strongly opposed.
“District leaders and school board members have to weigh the advantages and disadvantages to each of those,” he said.
“There’s no significant research I think that tells us what’s the right way to go, so it’s a community sentiment and how it’s reflected in the decision of the school board members.”
Janet Bamford, the chief public affairs officer for the New Jersey School Boards Association, said security is a priority for all districts.
“Before education can happen students and staff have to not only be safe but they have to feel safe, too,” she said.
Bozza said the association recently formed a committee to look at what could and should be done to go beyond current security measures to enhance and improve security in schools.