In letter, Monroe superintendent outlines why armed guards are coming to schools

Christopher Lang, Correspondent, @topherlang2, Feb 24, 2018 | MonroeNow

In a letter to community members on Friday, the Monroe Township School District superintendent explained some of the reasons behind adding armed security guards to enhance campus safety.

This is the third communication Superintendent Michael Kozak has addressed to the school community about campus safety since 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas high students and staff were killed when a student opened fire inside the Parkland, Fla.-based school on Feb. 14.

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“We realize that the addition of armed security officers into our schools may be disconcerting to our students and staff,” Superintendent Michael Kozak wrote. “However, we hope that our increased security measures will provide a safer environment for students and staff.”

In the letter, Kozak noted that a leading reason to having armed off-duty police stationed at the schools, in addition to the district’s in-house unarmed security staff, was sparked by residents’ requests during a public forum about campus safety on Feb. 20.

“We realize that the addition of armed security officers into our schools may be disconcerting to our students and staff.” — Michael Kozak, Superintendent

That meeting focused on what the district is currently doing to create a safe environment, including addressing students’ behavioral, emotional and academic needs, training staff to be more aware of potential problems, as well as security efforts undertaken such as entry controls, video surveillance and other measures.

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Starting this week, the Township-provided off-duty police will begin their assignments at the school, joining nearby East Brunswick Public Schools that started phasing in armed security after President’s Day.

The Township is covering the initial pay for the officers, which the municipality’s Business Administration Office estimates at $200,000.

In approximately two months, Kozak expects that the district’s in-house security staff, after they completes necessary requirements to be armed, and the Board of Education approves the necessary policies to permit this method, will take over the responsibilities of protecting the schools while carrying firearms.

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“Providing a safe and secure learning environment for our students and staff is a top priority for the Monroe Township Board of Education and district administration,” Kozak wrote. “Horrific events, such as the recent school shooting in Florida, highlight the need to review safety and security measures in an effort to protect our students and staff from armed intruders.”

To help with the transition of having armed guards, Kozak said on Thursday that he had met with the district leadership team to discuss ways to help students adjust to having an armed presence at the schools.

“Things have changed over the years. Our airport security has tightened. There is the horrific shooting in Florida, Sandy Hook [Newtown, Conn.], … going all the way back to Columbine [Colorado] has provided the impetus to provide more security,” Kozak said on Thursday.