TRENTON – Last week’s school shooting massacre was 1,800 miles away in Texas but top of mind Wednesday at the monthly meeting of New Jersey’s State Board of Education.

State Board of Education member Joseph Ricca said there’s a real, “uniquely American problem” with kids being murdered in schools – and that the solution isn’t turning schools into fortresses, arming teachers and blaming mental illness.

Ricca said the problem is access to high-capacity weapons designed to kill, not for hunting or target practice.

“I don’t want to hear anybody talking about giving guns to teachers. I don’t want to hear anybody talk about having to build fences and walls and send the National Guard to our schools,” he said. “Anybody talking about that is not leading, and they’re deflecting.”

Vice president Andrew Mulvihill said he disagreed with much of what Ricca said but that an analysis of how to respond to the latest mass shooting should wait.

“I don’t think now is the time to have that conversation. I think now is the time to mourn and now is the time to pray,” Mulvihill said. “I’m so sorry that we lost these children. It’s horrible.”

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Acting Education Commissioner Angelica Allen-McMillan said “this is a time for us to all take a moment and reflect on what’s important to us and how we can help one another.”

One day after the shooting, the state Department of Education shared information with the state’s school districts alerting them to resources for students, parents and teachers coping with the incident, as well as training and resource opportunities for school safety and security.

“Such tragedies undermine the most basic feelings of safety and security we all expect from our schools and workplaces,” Allen-McMillan said.

Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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