By Matt Johnson
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Nashville as well as National Youth Violence Prevention Week wrapping up, school security continues to be a source of concern.
As the one-year mark of the massacre in Uvalde, Texas, approaches, many changes have been made across America regarding school safety. Though Uvalde wasn’t the first school shooting in the country's history, it garnered increased support for gun control and new safety measures. Politicians in Congress debated what should be done following the death of 21 people, 19 of which were under the age of 12.
“We feel it is imperative to share with you that prioritizing school safety is not a responsive action to such tragedies,” read a recent statement sent out by Wall Superintendent of Schools Dr. Tracy Handerhan and Wall Township Chief of Police Sean O'Halloran. “Securing our schools is a 365-24-7 responsibility.”
At Wall High School, students and faculty have undergone ALICE training centered around what actions can be taken in regards to an active shooter in a school setting. Along with that, students have noticed more Wall Township Police officers around the building.
“We are way ahead of the game and everyone is doing a good job with this,” said Wall Township Board of Education member Kenneth Wondrack when asked about Wall Schools’ safety measures at a meeting.
The Wall Township School District has always had security measures to keep their students and staff safe from any harm. Every elementary school, the Intermediate School and the High School are staffed with security guards, equipped with surveillance cameras and more to ensure the protection of the people inside the buildings. Along with that, each school has “warm zones,” separate rooms in the front of the building people are screened in before they even enter the building.
Although the district did not make this a mandatory rule, some schools in New Jersey and across the country are only allowing see-through clear backpacks in school to ensure that nothing harmful can be brought in. Although it may seem like a valid solution to limit school shootings, experts say it won't do anything to prevent them from happening, but it is one possible solution.
Striking a balance, however, is difficult. Students should not feel unsafe in a school environment nor should it feel like a prison.
“Before 9/11, it was a nicer world,” said Wall High School Acting Principal Dr. Peter Righi, who was the Superintendent of the Rumson-Fair Haven School District prior to Sept. 11, 2001. “But after, there were huge changes in not only schools, but all across the country.”
There needs to be changes in order to prevent such horrific events, but where does it start? Politicians can't seem to agree on what must be done. While people feel their ego is more important than children’s safety, someone could be plotting to go into a school and cause serious harm. Something needs to be done, not just in Wall, but nationwide. Schools should all have the same requirements as their top priority is to keep children safe.
Every Wall school has at least two security guards in the building at all times and one at the front of the school at all times. Teachers and administrators are all required to be certified in school safety and that is a statewide law. Along with that, the ALICE training was reintroduced after a pandemic pause at all of the schools in the district. ALICE stands for alert, lockdown, inform, counter and evacuate, all actions students and staff might need to take in the presence of a threat. At the High School, Assistant Principal Kevin Davis and Security Guard Mike Textor are both certified to teach the ALICE training.
Wall High School and all of the schools in the district are also in close contact with the Wall Township Police Department in the event of an active shooter. Training has been in place regarding Wall Police so everyone is on the same page.
“We know where Wall PD will be in an active shooter situation,” said Mr. Textor, whose youngest child attends Wall schools, and added that the best thing people can do in those terrible situations is be “eyes and ears.” He explained how important the idea of hearing something and saying something is crucial in the possibility of an active shooter.
“At the end of last year, more security measures were added to every school,” Dr. Handerhan said.
Mr. Davis also stated that the High School is “ahead of the curve" and that “Other schools [districts] are playing catch-up.”