School security

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Local law enforcement officials joined Toms River Regional Schools administrators Feb. 26 to address school safety and security. Left to right: Matthew Petrecca, Pine Beach Police Chief; Mitch Little, Toms River Police Chief; Andrew Izatt South Toms River Police Chief; William Kosh, South Toms River Police Sergeant; David Healy, Toms River Regional Schools Superintendent; Robert Tapp Beachwood Police Chief; Glenn M. Miller, Ocean County Prosecutor's Office Chief of County Detectives; Joseph D. Coronato, Ocean County Prosecutor; Dr. Marc Natanagara, Assistant Superintendent, Operations, Toms River Regional Schools. Full story below.

Last week, in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies, Toms River Regional Schools released a statement of assurances regarding school safety and security in response to heightened concerns stemming from the tragic school shooting in Florida, as well as the disturbing frequency of similar incidents in recent years. Yesterday, district and law enforcement officials met face to face at Toms River Regional Schools administrative offices to further discuss school security procedures.

Represented at the meeting were the police departments of Toms River, Pine Beach, South Toms River, and Beachwood, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office. These officials joined District Superintendent David Healy and Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dr. Marc Natanagara to discuss a multitude of proactive and preventative strategies.

“School safety is a constant conversation at Toms River Regional Schools,” said Healy. “Today’s meeting was immensely productive, and we will continue to discuss and work toward areas of improvement in our schools with our local experts in law enforcement. Rest assured, the safety and well-being of our students and staff remain above all other priorities.”

School districts in New Jersey are required to have emergency plans that they share with the state’s Department of Education as well as its local law enforcement agencies. A minimum of 10 drills per year is required, which cover a variety of scenarios from intruders entering the building, threats outside buildings, bomb threats, to fire drills. At Toms River Regional, school doors are locked throughout each building with visitors requiring vetting prior to entrance. The district also works with town emergency planners including first responders, fire officials, paramedics, and police officers to develop a strategy if something were to happen.

“I've observed firsthand how our children and staff react to school emergencies and/or drills,” said Healy. “I am always reassured and impressed by the steadfast adherence to the procedures that we have all trained for on multiple occasions and the responsiveness of our local law enforcement agencies.”

During the meeting officials discussed ways to enhance or improve upon systems currently in place, and how the school district can maximize its already strong communication lines with law enforcement agencies if urgent action is required. The unfortunate reality acknowledged by all parties is that even the most stringent planning and well-executed strategies cannot altogether prevent an individual act of violence; however, the district and Toms River law enforcement remain confident that the safety measures they’ve collaboratively enacted and continue to refine have raised the level of security across the district’s 18 schools.

“These meetings highlight the outstanding cooperation between Ocean County Schools and law enforcement,” said Coronato. “Beyond the implementation of past security initiatives, they have produced immediate additional measures in the wake of the tragic Parkland shootings. Moving forward, our continued conversations will explore both short and long term initiatives to continually strengthen school safety.” 

Anyone who would like more information about school safety procedures is encouraged to contact Toms River Regional Schools at 732-505-5500.