Tuesday, March 13, 2018– Students across the country have been making their voices heard on the issue of gun violence following the tragedy in Parkland, Florida last month. Toms River Regional Schools principals began meeting proactively with students the week after the Florida shootings to hear their concerns and to make sure the pathway forward was positive and constructive.
Schools are increasingly tasked with more than just educating children. Student, staff, and community safety, health, and well-being while on school premises are of primary concern. The district meets regularly with local law enforcement, and recent meetings with district security personnel, chiefs of police from the four towns the regional district serves, and Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph Coronado reviewed safety and security practices and ensured collaboration between the schools, town, and county resources.
With the date and time of the March demonstrations announced nationally, administrators and faculty have been meeting with students to discuss ways to participate without potentially putting them in harm’s way.
The schools in Toms River are REQUIRING the students to walk out!! My kids have no choice in the matter. So don't believe everything that you see in the news. Not all of these kids are protesting, some are just doing what they are told to by the school. 🙁
— Cheryl DiCarlo (@CherylADiCarlo) March 13, 2018
“We support the initiative of students to speak and express their concerns on the issue of gun violence and other areas important to them,” said Superintendent David Healy, “and we have been working over the past several weeks to allow them to do so within a safe environment.”
Bulletins from the NJ Commissioner of Education and NJ School Boards Association cautioned districts to be mindful of the increased security risks posed by such gatherings. The NJDOE recommended, among other steps, making sure:
- any gathering is away from areas in view of, or easily accessible to, the general public
- assembly sites and pedestrian routes are not exposed to vehicular traffic
- access to the gathering site is well controlled
Conversations between high school staff and students have included making sure any event would not be disruptive or violate district policies. Schools will follow established protocols regarding student attendance and behavior, and students will neither be required to nor denied the opportunity to peacefully participate in any activity established for that period.
Many teachers see this as an opportunity for learning and to promote student voice, an essential part of the school curriculum. School counselors have been especially mindful of student concerns and are “first responders” when it comes to mental health.
Parents have also contributed productively to the conversation, and have asked how they can support their children. The district has a parent page on its website where it continually adds resources for such situations, accessible at www.trschools.com/parents.
For additional information, contact the Superintendent’s Office at 732-505-5500.