Safety Concerns Addressed By School, Police Officials At Symposium

FTPD Lt. Phil Rizzo, Sgt. Mark Reiner, Lt. Greg Borlan, Chief Richard Grammar and schools Superintendent John Ravally (left to right) at the Safety Symposium held March 29 at Franklin Middle School.

The idea of putting metal detectors in township schools “is not off the table,” a crowd of about 100 people was told March 29 at the township Safety Symposium held at Franklin Middle School.

In response to a question from a township resident, schools Superintendent John Ravally said that the idea of putting some kind of metal detection – whether it’s metal detectors or “wands” – is still being discussed by school officials.

Ravally made the statement during the safety symposium at FMS, which was coordinated by officials from the township, the school district and Franklin Township police. The symposium was arranged after a series of incidents at township schools involving students bringing guns into the buildings.

The superintendent said the district will hire a firm to make a security risk assessment in the district.

“Whatever we do, we want to do right,” Ravally said. “We want to do it with the expertise of folks from the industry, hence the security risk assessment. It’s a holistic look at not only the facilities, but our technology and our procedures.”

“And if at the end of that assessment, a recommendation is to have metal detecting wands, or metal detecting devices at certain doors, then so be it,” he said. “That’s the commitment you make when you do an assessment. The commitment you make when you do an assessment is to respond to the recommendations.”

“That’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s something we’re going to work on during the spring,” Ravally said.

Among the other revelations during the evening:

  • Guns found on students in two separate incidents were “street guns,” not legally owned, according to Chief of Police Richard Grammar.
  • The school district “need to assess” safety issues in classroom trailers used at elementary schools, said Ravally.
  • The district is “doing what we can to try to keep guns out of schools,” Ravally said.
  • “Kids tell us stuff all the time,” Grammar said.

Grammar also said that one of the tips police received regarding a gun incident came through a “regular police source,” and the other came from a student.

“Our kids have grown up in the post-911 world, they’ve seen the PSAs ‘If you see something, say something,’ they know that,” Grammar said. “They tell us stuff all the time. We get it on our tips line, or we get a straight-up phone call, or they’ll flag us down sometimes or they’ll grab a school resource officer, and when we get tips, we immediately jump on an investigation and see what the story is. Sometimes it turns out to be nothing.”

“Sometimes someone will post something inappropriate on social media, their peers dime them out right away,” he said. “You see something, say something, that’s the rule they’ve grown up with and that’s exactly what they do.”

Two Franklin High School students, one on the regular program, the second in the “Road to Success” alternative program, were arrested in a two-week span in late February and early March after they were found to have guns in their backpacks.

There have also been a number of incidents since the Feb. 14 mass killing in a Parkland, Fl. high school that have prompted school officials to send notices home to parents, including the discovery of a bullet in the middle school gym.

It was township resident reaction to those incidents, and the relative lack of information from the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office – which controls those types of investigations – that prompted Franklin Reporter & Advocate co-publisher PJ Parker to suggest to school board president Nancy LaCorte that a town hall-like meeting be held LaCorte brought the idea to Mayor Phil Kramer, who then contacted Grammar, and the event was set up.

One parent asked why crisis drills aren’t customized for different age groups. She said her pre-Kindergarten daughter, who is in a classroom at Franklin High School, is afraid of the drills.

Ravally told her that there are certain things that have to be done in the drills, and they are done for all students.

“We also recognize that there is no one thing we’re going to do that will prepare us totally for a crisis situation,” said Orvyl Wilson, the district’s Director of Operations.

The school board on March 28 approved a tentative 2018-19 district budget that calls for the hiring of 10 Class III police officers – one for each of the township’s schools – as well as security measures at the high and middle schools.

After the event, the FR&A conducted a live-streamed interview with several people involved in the symposium, a parent and some students. (We apologize for the static, the middle school is a difficult place from which to transmit):

Posted by The Franklin Reporter & Advocate on Thursday, March 29, 2018



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