By JOANNE PAPAIANNI and DON STINE
School officials in the area have taken measures to ensure the safety of students and staff in the wake of the deadly shootings at a Florida school. Security has been increased and letters have been sent home to parents about school safety.
John Napolitani, president of the Asbury Park Education Association said security was increased at city schools after the shooting.
“They checked every individual student coming into the school at the Middle School,” he said earlier this week.
Napolitani, who lives in Ocean Township, says he does worry about his own children attending school.
Asbury Park Board of Education member Barbara Lesinski said, “I know our administration takes precautions throughout the year to keep the kids safe.”
Lesinski said district officials keep abreast of schools.
“We are mindful of what happens in other schools…they are trying to do what they can. Adults and kids have to be mindful of peoples’ behavior, if there are red flags. Like they say ‘If you see something say something.’ Nationwide violence in schools is something we should all address.”
She praised the young Floridian students for speaking out.
“Young people are very intelligent, very proactive. they are trying to save students’ lives. The students and the staff want to be safe.”
Lesinski spoke about how the world has changed saying as a young person in school she didn’t have to think about being shot at school.
“And the caliber of weapons that are available and the sophistication, I just don’t know,” she said.
“Mass shootings, any school, young people, old people, it’s a tragedy.”
Lesinski said the walk out that the students from Marjory….. have planned for March 24 in Washington shows the students’ determination.
“They want the staff and students to be safe, they experienced it,” she said.
Neptune school officials have sent letters home to parents.
“Every time there is one of these school shootings, our first thoughts are obviously with the victims and their families. But our next thought is what about us,” Neptune Superintendent of Schools Tami Crader said.
In the letter, Cramer wrote that “While no policy, procedure, or training can guarantee immunity from the evils of the outside world, I want to assure you that we have a very comprehensive safety and security plan in place,”
Neptune schools have had Neptune School Resource Officers since 2000 and, for the past 12 years, have worked with a safety and security consultant, a facilities engineer, the police department, and the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Department to harden infrastructure, develop tighter procedures, and provide effective training.
She wrote that all schools have been fitted with campus alert systems, networked radio capacity, cameras, and alarms.
“We have developed visitor management guidelines as well as threat assessment protocols. All administrators have been trained in threat assessment and have worked together to practice and execute those protocols.”
“All staff are trained annually and as needed throughout the school year. Each month, every school conducts a scenario-type drill that incorporates real-life events and opportunities for all to practice and improve. As a result of ongoing interagency training and practice, our staff have become proficient in responding to drill scenarios as well as actual emergencies,” she said.
Community involvement is also important.
“Keeping our school community safe is the responsibility of not just the school; the entire community must be involved. I ask for your active advocacy as we work to balance the importance of providing a welcoming environment to the members of our school community with the critical need to keep our students and staff safe. If you hear something or see something, please contact a school administrator or the Superintendent’s office. Students and their families often hear about potentially unsafe events well before school officials. We must work together to keep our students and staff safe,” she said.
Ocean Township School Superintendent James Stefankiewicz said he believes the safety measures in Ocean schools “are strong” but did not go into details.
“Part of having good measures are not telling what the measure area. We have lots of measures in place to ensure the safety of our students,” he said.
He said there are highly trained security guards in every school and that the district works very closely with police. He added that police make more pass-bys and stop in schools more frequently
“I don’t know if we need to do a lot differently but we continue to be as vigilant as possible. We always think about maintaining good procedures but we also continue to review to see if we need to update,” he said.
In the letter, Stefankiewicz said the school district “has significantly increased safety procedures over the past several years,” including making upgrades to physical infrastructure, cameras, notification systems and increasing security staff presence.
He said that last Friday the district’s entire security team conducted a thorough review of safety procedures with the police department and that this type of scrutiny will continue.
“The safety of all our children and staff is a top priority,” he said.
The young activists are the impetus for a planned March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C. on Sat., March 24. School walk outs are planned for National Walk Out day on Fri., April 20, which marks the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting which left 13 high school students dead. Students and teachers are asked to walk outside at their schools at 10 a.m. local time that day wearing orange, which has become the color of the movement to stop gun violence.