Dr. Angelica Allen-McMillan, acting commissioner of education, issued the following statement on May 25 in response to the school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
As we all mourn the loss of 21 beautiful lives at Robb Elementary School, families, students, and educators across the country have borne witness to another senseless act of gun violence. Such tragedies undermine the most basic feelings of safety and security we all expect from our schools and workplaces. I believe in the power of our educational community to triumph over stark adversity, but in this moment, even I am shaken by the shooting that occurred yesterday.
Educators are more than individuals trained to deliver curriculum to students. Educators are caregivers who love their students, their families, and the communities they serve. As an educator, school leader, and as the commissioner, I am still contending with how I would provide a safe space for my students to unpack the traumatic events that occurred yesterday. Yesterday, my colleagues who began their day believing in the safety and security of their school buildings may now contend with feelings of uncertainty. Individuals who make up our school community from inside the walls of our schools must also grapple with the multiple roles we have as fathers, mothers, family members, or friends, all empathizers of the thoughts and feelings of those at Robb Elementary School.
I encourage all educators and families around the state to engage with their students in developmentally appropriate conversations concerning school safety and security and explain the incident that took place yesterday in Uvalde, Texas. I encourage all educators to engage in open discussion with students in a forum that allows expression of their thoughts, reactions and feelings.
I urge our school administrators to work closely with our students’ families to support them in engaging in conversations at home that discuss yesterday’s tragedy. Families may feel especially vulnerable following this traumatic event and will want reassurance regarding the safety of their students. They may also contend with students who express feelings of being unsafe or insecure about attending school in response to this incident. It is important to acknowledge those feelings and explain how the school community is prepared to respond to emergency situations. Over time, continue to check-in with the family and consider providing additional counseling services to support the student.
The acting commissioner also shared a list of resources that local education agencies can reference as the education community continues to process and heal from the incident in Uvalde. The resources can be found in this memo.
The New Jersey School Boards Association shared additional resources in School Board Notes. You can view the resources in last week’s article.
In a separate memo, the acting commissioner noted that the NJDOE continues to work with school districts to protect the safety and security of all students and staff members.
The Department’s Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning, in conjunction with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Association of School Resource Officers, and other state and federal partners, supports local education agencies and school leaders in the establishment and maintenance of school safety and security plans.
OSPEP is facilitating a behavioral threat assessment and management training for school communities to instruct participants in the guiding principles of threat assessment and management, including how to identify and investigate threats and other suspicious behavior in LEAs. Participants will be provided step-by-step procedures to gather information and assess threats; and, where necessary, learn how to develop and implement plans to reduce risk and help maintain school safety.