The attack at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., that left 17 students and adults dead on Feb. 14 was felt immediately in western Monmouth County, and specifically in two communities where officials reacted with public statements.
And, no doubt, elected officials and law enforcement personnel in every community in New Jersey, in Florida and beyond, are once again left to ponder the question, “How can we protect the children and staff members who work in our schools?”
I am not certain they can.
During a meeting of the Marlboro Township Council on Feb. 15, council President Randi Marder asked for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the attack in Parkland, allegedly at the hands of a 19-year-old man who entered the school and indiscriminately murdered teenagers and adults.
Marder asked Marlboro residents to keep the victims of the attack in their hearts.
Mayor Jonathan Hornik said, “We express our deepest condolences to those who lost their lives and to those who were affected. There is not much we can add to that. As a country, we have to come together and ask how we are going to prevent these tragedies. In the long term, that may involve gun control. Terrorism in the United States is illegal, but it still happens. You cannot legislate your way out of the problem.”
Hornik said in Marlboro, efforts to protect students and staff members may include “hardening targets and putting more armed police in our schools. We don’t ever want to end up in that (Parkland) position. We will work with our school boards and superintendents to keep our children safe.”
Councilman Jeff Cantor, who has served with the U.S. Army in danger zones around the world, said, “If you look at the demographics of Parkland, Fla., they are similar to Marlboro. What happened there could easily happen here, and we have to do our due diligence.”
Hornik reported that prior to the council meeting, he and Cantor met with representatives of the Marlboro Police Department specifically to discuss school security issues.
In Howell, Police Chief Andrew Kudrick quickly sought to reassure residents police are doing all they can to ensure the safety of Howell’s students and educators in the community’s schools.
Kudrick said residents will see some actions, such as an increased police presence around the schools, while “other measures will be taken that will not be disclosed.”
He raised an issue that has also been mentioned in the wake of the Parkland massacre, saying, “In most cases, there were warning signs. Social media seems to be the most apparent” place where warning signs surface.
I have no doubt Marlboro and Howell are not the only towns in our area where these type of discussions are taking place. No one wants to see what occurred in Florida happen here.
The reality of the situation forces us to come to grips with these facts: one, schools are not hardened military installations where every individual is armed, and two, military grade weapons can be legally obtained in this country.
One armed police officer in a school cannot be everywhere at the same time, and two armed police officers cannot be everywhere at the same time. That seems especially true on a high school campus which may cover more than 1 acre.
There are many sides to this issue – guns, mental illness, the money needed to make a school impenetrable – and each issue has supporters and objectors. I do not presume to have the answers that will end these unprovoked attacks.
What started as a shocking attack by two students against their fellow students and their teachers on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado has been repeated too many times in the intervening years and is now a sad, but common reality in 2018.
Mark Rosman is a managing editor with Newspaper Media Group. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org