TRENTON – Senator Shirley K. Turner today said New Jersey should respond to the “plague of violence in our society” by placing police officers in every high school and middle school in the State.
“It’s a sad, but necessary response to the plague of violence in our society that police officers should be on the job at every high school and middle school in New Jersey,” said Senator Turner, the Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
The Senate panel held a hearing on security in New Jersey schools and collected testimony from three experts, a State Police Lt. Doug Heath who led a statewide of audit of school security measures; Susan Martz, Director of Program Support Services for the Department of Education, and Scott Tisch, Chief of Staff for the Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Many municipalities already have enjoyed success in curbing violent incidents by placing a “school resource officer” in their schools, said Lt. Heath, who added the officers provide hands-on examples of positive law enforcement role models for the students in both urban and suburban settings.
“I know it always comes down to how much it will cost, but we need to set our priorities around the safety of our children in light of the horrific tragedies that have taken place in our schools nationwide,” Senator Turner said.
The Senate committee Chair said Homeland Security funds from both State and Federal sources should be considered for assigning the police officers in the schools.
“Violence in our schools can erupt in a matter of minutes as we know all too well by the accounts of tragedies from Columbine High School in Colorado to the Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County (Pa.),” Senator Turner said.
Senator Joseph V. Doria Jr., vice chair of the committee, said the City of Bayonne where he serves as Mayor has had tremendous success by placing a total of 15 police officers in the city schools.
“Parents like it because their children are safer – it’s as simple as that,” Senator Doria said.
Senator Turner said she hopes the Governor’s new task force on school security will make a concerted effort to recommend funding sources for law enforcement officers to be assigned to schools.
“We’re making progress, based on what I heard today from our three guests, but we need to do more,” Senator Turner said. “Just a few short years ago, it was inconceivable that children would be massacred by fellow students or that armed intruders would enter classrooms and take hostages. Now, we just hold our breath and hope when we turn on the nightly news.”