Jackson School District to Review Security in Light of CT School Shooting
By Phil Stilton
JACKSON–The Jackson Township School District has announced today that measures are being taken to re-evaluate the security policies within the district and have enacted a few changes already this week.
“At the district level, the other part of our reaction is practical – to reassess our actions to make sure we are doing all we can to safeguard our students,” said District Superintendent Thomas Gialanella. “We review our security procedures and equipment annually, we practice and reinforce emergency and intruder response with students during monthly drills, we require visitors to sign in to reception areas, we have full-time security staff, some of whom are former police officers and we stress vigilance in security with our staff and students.”
Jackson Township Police Chief Matthew Kunz also said his department remains in support of the school resource officer program, which was ended by the district in 2010 after a grant had expired. In September of that year, Jackson Police officers assigned to Jackson Memorial and Jackson Liberty High Schools and the township’s two middle schools, Goetz and McAuliffe were returned to regular patrol duties.
“Unfortunately, we had pulled our SRO’s out of the schools a long time ago,” Kunz said “Staff cuts through attrition forced us to return those officers to regular patrol duties. Similarly, we have had to reduce our traffic safety unit and detective bureau in order to meet patrol staffing needs.”
After the removal of the school resource officers, Gialanella issued a statement to the press, “While the district is thankful that the school resource officers have been in our schools, their absence will not create a safety issue for the district. They have had an extremely positive impact on our students, but even though they will be missed, their absence does not mean our schools are less safe.”
The SRO’s were previously funded by a federal grant called the Community Oriented Police Services (COPS) Program.
“If the SRO program can be funded, we continue to remain supporters, as the many collateral benefits are immeasurable.” Kunz added.
Township and school officials have since stated on several occasions that neither the township nor the school district budgets could afford to sustain the SRO program without the assistance of the federal grants.
Meanwhile, the district has implemented the following policies that will take effect immediately:
1. All school doors will now be locked to outside visitors at our elementary and middle schools. Visitors will be let into the building by receptionists, who will then require the same photo identification/sign in procedures we have required in the past;
2. Two police officers have been hired to patrol our schools during the day for this week as we work through this time of stress and anxiety. The presence of these officers in and out of our schools each day is in addition to our own security staff;
3. The Jackson Township Police Department has also increased patrols near our schools. The district was in contact with the police department on Friday after learning of the tragedy in Connecticut and we appreciate their immediate assistance, guidance and presence;
4. The extension of the hours of operation for the school receptionists at schools where child care is held both before and after school.
A school security advisory board has also been establish to review existing district security policies.