The Hopewell Valley Regional School District administration is focusing on preventative measures when it comes to school safety from providing “mental health support” to “having clear communication” with parents, students and police to get students help before any potential school shooting occurs.
A safety presentation is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20 in the Hopewell Valley Central High School Community Center. The district administration will have members from the police department, counseling, Child Study Team, and campus safety officers (CSO) to talk about safety.
At the forefront of the school safety discussion has been whether or not armed campus safety officers are necessary. Superintendent of Schools Rosetta Treece said there are no plans to make a decision on armed CSOs during the summer, but it is “not something that is completely off the table.”
Treece noted that the administration in the past did extensive research around the topic of arming CSOs with the Hopewell Township Police Department.
“We made sure our [CSOs] were all former police officers so, if we ever decide to make this decision in the district, (we can) going forward,” she said. “The CSOs are eligible to carry if we decide to move forward with that. That is something we are going to have to do in collaboration with the township, because they supply the training, firearms and special equipment they will need.”
The discussion in the school district around arming CSOs had arisen after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Nineteen children and two teachers were killed during the shooting in May.
Treece said the school district decided against armed CSOs in the past.
“Statistically, we have not really seen evidence, especially of late, that arming school resource officers really has helped reduce injury or loss of life,” she said. “Out of the 133 school shootings that were documented as of last year, 23% of those school shootings had armed officers and they actually had more causalities than the ones with no armed officers.”
There are two CSOs at Hopewell Valley Central High School (HVCHS), two CSOs at Timberlane Middle School (TMS), one CSO at Toll Gate Grammar School, and one CSO each for Bear Tavern Elementary, Stony Brook Elementary, Hopewell Elementary School and the BOE office, according to a presentation made by Treece in June.
“We do not know if [armed CSOs will] solely help the situation. A lot of the research now shows that the preventative efforts work, because a lot of the school shooters either had a connection with the school as they were attending it or [were] former students,” Treece said.
Treece highlighted ongoing safety efforts at a school board meeting on July 18, which included updating the school vestibules over the last two years, the installation of additional cameras in all buildings with live Hopewell Township Police Department access and working with township police and the Pennington Police Department to create geo mapping so they know each building structure.
Other safety measures presented included the hiring of a swing shift CSO to monitor after school activities at TMS and HVCHS and the installation of panic buttons in each of the six district schools.