Township School Officials React To Texas School Massacre

School officials in Franklin attempted on May 25 to reassure parents about the safety of their schools, a day after the killing of 19 students and two teachers in a Texas elementary school.

Franklin schools Superintendent John Ravally and Namik Sercan, the chief education Officer at Central Jersey College Prep Charter School, issued letters to parents that detailed some of the safety and security measures in place in their schools.

CJCP went farther, according to Sercan’s letter. The school has cancelled all outside recess sessions and outdoor physical education classes for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year.

The letters come in the wake of an attack on an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas by an 18-year-old man who, after having shot his grandmother in her face in her home, barricaded himself in a classroom and killed 19 students and two teachers. The man was later shot and killed by Border Patrol agents.

In his letter, Ravally gave some details about the steps the school district has taken to step up security and safety in township schools since the 2018 shooting in a Parkland, Fla. high school.

The district hired an outside consultant to study its safety polices and do a security audit on its buildings, resulting in a 30-page report, Ravally wrote. Many of those suggestions have been acted upon, he wrote.

“First and foremost, the district has developed a comprehensive emergency response and management plan that is housed in all district schools and offices,” he wrote. “The plan has also been shared widely with the appropriate authorities at the local, county and state levels. The plan is reviewed and updated annually, ensuring it remains relevant.”

The plan is drilled regularly, Ravally wrote.

The district has also upgraded its security systems, Ravally wrote.

The district “now has the capability to share video and audio with emergency responders as necessary and at a moment’s notice,” he wrote. “The district has also upgraded its communication systems and now has the ability to connect directly across campuses and with local law enforcement in the event of an emergency, from anywhere in the district and from most locations throughout Franklin Township. At each campus, ‘panic buttons’ have been strategically deployed, giving school personnel another mechanism for notifying local authorities about emergency situations.”

Other steps taken by the district include the building of “mantraps” at all school entrances, changing shrubbery around schools to eliminate hiding spots and placing School Resource Officers or Class III police officers in schools, Ravally wrote.

“As we have said in the past, while no one person can provide a guarantee that a tragedy like the one that occurred in Uvalde will not happen in his or her school, what we do know is preparation helps to minimize the risk,” he wrote. “With that said, please know that the Board of Education, administrators, faculty and staff at Franklin Township Public Schools take all potential threats seriously and, as mentioned above, are continually working to safeguard our staff and students from potential harm.”

In his letter, Sercan wrote that while the Texas shootings too place far away, “made us deeply feel it in our hearts as we dedicate our lives to the wellbeing of our children.”

“We want to assure you that the safety and security of our students and staff are the utmost priority in our school,” Sercan wrote. “We are cautious and proactive to ensure that the safety of our school community is protected at all times.”

Some of the steps the school has taken so far, aside from cancelling the outdoor gatherings, are:

  • Contacting the Franklin Township Police Department (FTPD). FTPD will provide a police officer to be present at arrival and dismissal.
  • Re-examining their safety policies and procedures to identify areas to strengthen.
  • Working with a leading and reputable outside security agency to conduct a safety assessment at the school’s two campuses campuses.
  • Conducting a student assembly to re-train students and staff regarding school safety.
  • Continuing to conduct security drills as required by state law.

“In addition, our counselors will provide mental health support to respond to students’ concerns and needs as needed,” Sercan wrote. “Our school nurses will also be ready to assist with health concerns. Nonetheless, our community is generally resilient and will be able to recover quickly from an event like this.”

Public Safety Director Quovella Maeweather said in a statement that “the Franklin Township Police Department and Board of Education has a strong relationship and ongoing partnership to ensure that there is security and law enforcement personnel to deter acts of violence and terrorism within and our schools.  With the assistance of Class III Officers, School Resource Officers and School Security, we always provide staffing to maintain a secure learning environment.”

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