In the weeks and months following the Newtown, CT, mass killing, much of the attention in schools has been on lockdown drills and how they can be practiced and adjusted to prevent or at least minimize casualties in the event of an armed intruder.
They’re tough questions, but growing all too real. And there are others: Are teachers and staff prepared to respond protect themselves and their children? Are effective alerts in place, ones that warn of the presence of an "active shooter"? Can each room be secured and everyone in it shielded from harm?
In the aftermath of the Newtown tragedy, New Jersey school officials have repeatedly said that the state’s requirements are as strict as any in the nation, calling for ongoing security planning and specific lockdown and active-shooters drills several times a year.
Now, state officials said they will step up their efforts to make sure those requirements are being met.
In a presentation to the State Board of Education yesterday, officials said that they will start conducting unannounced visits and drills in selected districts to ensure that the proper steps are being followed.
Anthony Bland, the state Department of Education’s coordinator of school preparedness and emergency planning, said that there would be a 10-point checklist for security teams to run through when visiting schools and evaluating drills.
“Do the people know what they are doing? Are they moving with a sense of urgency? Are the doors locked? Was it all done in a timely fashion?” Bland asked afterward, listing a few of the points that are still being fine-tuned by the state’s School Security Task Force.
State Education Commissioner Chris Cerf said that he believes schools by and large comply with the requirements and are well-prepared, but the extra evaluations will help reinforce that.