Panel Bashes Idea of Armed Guards in Bergen County Schools
Mahwah hosted a County School Boards Association panel discussion Thursday night where law enforcement and school officials made security suggestions for local schools
Armed guards are definitely not the solution to school safety questions brought up after the Newtown school shooting, but there are other measures school districts in Bergen County could be taking to make schools safer. That was the message of a panel of local law enforcement and school officials who commented on school safety concerns to a group of about 150 school board representatives at a special Bergen County School Boards meeting at Mahwah High School Thursday night.
“In Mahwah, we are very opposed to having armed guards in schools,” Mahwah Police Chief James Batelli, a member of the panel - which also included the chiefs of the Hackensack, Hillsdale and Dumont departments, the Superintendent of the Dumont School District, and the Business Administrator of the Chester Township School District - said.
“It won’t stand the test of time. [Instating armed guards] may look good now, and may make you look like a proactive school district, but I guarantee eight months down the road they won’t still be there.”
Others on the panel added that armed security guards and teachers in the schools would be worse options, still.
The across-the-board opposition to the idea of armed guards in schools, which has gotten a lot of national attention since the December shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, was in response to a question from the event’s moderator, Ray Wiss, the immediate past president of the NJ School Boards Association.
Wiss asked the panel for its reaction to a recent NorthJersey.com article reporting Totowa as the first district in the county to hire armed police officers full time at its schools.
Panelists did say they saw some merit in adding security cameras and unarmed security guards to schools. However, panelists emphasized that police departments having emergency protocol plans in place for an active shooter situation or another type of emergency was extremely important.
In addition, panelists suggested getting a school safety audit done to point out what potential safety hazards exist in the district’s buildings, having a constant police presence in and around schools, and keeping the lines of communication open between law enforcement and school district officials.
The event was co-sponsored by the BCSBA and Nixle, a text message alert system that many school districts are signing on to use.