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SOM District Reviews School Safety Procedures

South Orange-Maplewood School District administrators discuss emergency management in light of Newtown shootings.

Administrators from the South Orange-Maplewood School District (SOMSD) are reviewing safety and emergency policies in response to last week's , in which 20 children and six adults were killed.

According to a statement issued by the district, SOMSD will reassess its emergency management procedures and, in consultation with the South Orange and Maplewood Police departments, adjust the district's existing plans if necessary.

Currently, school doors are kept locked and security cameras monitor visitors, who must buzz to be allowed in. All visitors must report first to the main office.

(The SOMSD policy handbook can be found on the district's website. Relevant sections include Policy 7430: School Safety and Policy 8420: Emergency and Crisis Situations).

Additionally, all district schools comply with state-mandated drills, which include two emergency drills, a fire drill and a security drill each month. 

The full text of the statement is below: 

The safety of our students and staff is always the highest priority for South Orange Maplewood School District. The horrific events in Newtown, Connecticut have touched us all deeply as parents, as teachers and administrators, and as a school community. We understand that parents have questions about our level of preparation, in light of this tragedy. We hope that the following information clarifies our procedures, and reassures families that we are committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of our students and staff in every possible way. 

We coordinate our approach to school safety with the Police and Fire Departments of South Orange and Maplewood, and have a security plan in place. Each staff member receives a copy of the security plans for their building. Security procedures are established for all of the schools – schools are locked, unauthorized visitors are prohibited, cameras monitor all who enter our buildings, and each school has a crisis management team. We thoroughly review, evaluate and update safety practices and security plans on a routine basis. 

In addition, every school in New Jersey is required by the State to conduct two emergency drills, a fire drill and a security drill, each month. Security drills include non-fire evacuations and lockdown situations. We practice a different security drill each month, repeating them as necessary, to ensure that each security drill is practiced at least twice a year and that students and staff know what to do to protect themselves in various situations. After each safety drill, we closely monitor our students’ reactions and we evaluate our procedures to seamlessly blend these exercises into our standard safety practices. 

When visiting any of our schools, we ask the community to contribute to the overall security of our students and staff by helping in the following ways: 

  • Visitors at any time during the day are to only enter the school through the main entrance. While this may be an inconvenience for some visitors, it is an essential step to securing the building.
  • When at the front door buzzing in, you may be asked to announce your name and purpose for visiting to the front office staff. Please be patient if clarifying questions are asked.
  • Please do not hold open the door for other visitors. All visitors must announce themselves and state their purpose.
  • All visitors at any time during the day are to report directly to the front office. Once there, you are to sign in, announce your intention, and wait for direction. This procedure does not change after school.

Administrators are meeting this week to discuss specifically what took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the possible implications for our emergency management procedures. We will also consult with our partners in the Police Departments, and adjust our existing plans as necessary. If there are changes to our procedures, they may not be announced to the public, in order to keep our plans secure. 

School violence is incredibly rare, and we of course hope that we never need to use these plans. We are confident that we have appropriate security measures in place to protect our schools, and are grateful for the ongoing support and assistance of the entire community in keeping our students and staff safe.

David Solomon December 21, 2012 at 12:35 PM
Interested to know what the current and proposed security protocols are for perhaps our most vulnerable students - those assigned to trailer classrooms. While locked, these structures are detached from the main buildings and therefore higher risk. They also lack closets or bathrooms large enough for hiding, a standard protocol which saved many lives in Newtown.
Carolyn Maynard-Parisi (Editor) December 21, 2012 at 04:06 PM
A very good question, David. I will pose it to the administration.
Margo Hill December 21, 2012 at 07:06 PM
Agreed. I have a child in one of these this year as well and I can't help but think about this. No bathroom, no closet. Sitting ducks.

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