This past week brought the awful news of yet another shooting at a school in our nation. Once again, senseless violence has occurred in a place where everyone should feel safe. We may feel various levels of shock, disbelief and anger that this has happened. Sadly, when I reviewed my past blog posts and letters on this topic, I discovered that I have written more than six times on the matter since the tragedy at Sandy Hook in 2012. This, in and of itself, begs the question of what will it take to stop such events?
In the aftermath of horrific events such as this one, it is normal for parents to be concerned about the safety of their children. We want to know that they are protected from any kind of danger. However, even as we focus on the many ways that we can ensure this, it is equally important that we also reassure our children, lest they become unduly fearful of everything in life. Although it is of little consolation now, incidents of school violence are still extremely rare.
As Head of School and a parent of two graduates, I am profoundly committed to ensuring the safety of our students. As we help our children move forward, it is important to address, first and foremost, their physical safety. Over the longer term, it is also vital that we provide emotional reassurance and always make the time to listen and take seriously our children’s concerns.
Please know that our School has deployed many resources to keep our students and faculty safe at all times. The School has clearly established emergency policies in place to address these situations and they are reviewed with our faculty and staff on a regular basis. The security team includes three full-time highly qualified personnel and is supplemented by our operations staff. They are a regular and highly visible presence on the campus. Officers from both Peapack-Gladstone and Chester frequently visit the School and have conducted training exercises in many of the buildings. The doors to Cox and Conover are locked during the day, and we are installing the same system in all of our classroom buildings in the next few months. There are many security cameras on the campus which are monitored during the day. Safety drills are practiced in each division on a monthly basis to make sure that faculty and students know what to do in the case of a crisis.
I would like to draw your attention to the following resources that might be helpful for you to consult as we work together to help and support the GSB community. They include the following:
Our Director of Security, Michael Bailey, is available to speak with any parents who have further concerns. He may be reached at (201) 841-2623 and his email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Like all parents, I struggle to find any meaning in such a senseless event. Yet, I am encouraged by the courageous response of many students in that particular school, and every school that believes the time has come to end the violence. Although there are many at Gill St. Bernard’s directly involved in ensuring the safety of our students and faculty, we all share in the responsibility through our common commitment in this area. As I told the students in the Upper School this morning, when you “see something, say something.” Unsettling comments, social media posts and disconcerting actions by young people or adults need to be brought to the attention of administrators and/or security staff. Furthermore, it is each of our jobs to listen when the students share their concerns with us and to take proper action.
I am confident that our campus is a safe one and we will continue our efforts to make sure that it remains as such.
Gill St. Bernard’s is a private, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful, and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.