Steps taken to tighten school security


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Photos



  • From left: David Pridham (Sparta School Resource officer), Christine Quinn (President, Sussex County League of Municipalities), Tom Ferry (Treasurer, Sussex County League of Municipalities), Lt John Lamon (Sparta Police Department), Francis Koch (Sussex County Prosecutor), Jackie Espinoza (Vice President of the Sussex County League of Municipalities), Debi Milliken (Secretary, Sussex County League of Municipalities),  Chief Sean Conrad (Jefferson Police Department), Sheriff Mike Strada (Sussex County Sheriff), Chief Neil Spidaletto (Sparta Police Department ), Dr. Mike Rossi (Superintendent, Sparta Township Public Schools).




  • Chief Neil Spidaletto and Dr. Michael Rossi speak to the League of Municipalities on Thursday, May 23, 2019 about schools and law enforcement working together to keep kids safe.




  • Sparta Police Chief Neil Spideletto




“We live in sleepy towns but we absolutely are not sleeping,” Christine Quinn the Deputy Mayor of Sparta said at the end of a presentation at the Sussex County League of Municipalities meeting at Mohawk House on Thursday, May 23rd.

Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto, Dr. Michael Rossi, the Superintendent of Sparta Schools and Lt. Matthew Avenatti, Station Commander of the Sussex County barracks detailed the joint training exercises and steps they’ve taken to prepare for an active shooter situation in the community. Avenatti said he and the others believe that “agencies that train together perform better.”

Chief Spidaletto said they now have to pay attention to “soft targets,” such as schools and houses of worship.

For those that grew up as teachers, Dr. Rossi said, “it’s a whole new ball game” to think about protecting students and also parents, teachers and visitors. He outlined the work the schools have done to tighten security, in addition to reinstating a police officer in the school as the school resource officer. Double lock doors now secure entrance vestibules with a buzzer required to gain admittance. New software called lobby guard now scans a person’s license and looks for things that could be a flag, like an outstanding warrant. Bullet “resistant” glass was installed and a policy adopted, based on recommendations, that “anonymous” visitors could no longer come on to school grounds; people must have an appointment. This applies to everyone, including parents dropping off “forgotten sports gear,” left behind homework and similar items. Rossi said in a community where parents are deeply involved in their children’s lives this was a cultural shift, but he said people had adapted well and it has streamlined who is coming in and out of the buildings.

As part of the presentation on school security Dr. Rossi talked about the schools’ focus on the mental health of students and the “social emotional learning” they are trying to instill. He pointed out that “a lot of the problems we encounter started outside the building” and then get shared widely because of social media. He said that their job is to educate students but that their job is much greater; it’s really about mental health and “how (students) think of themselves.”

The 270 cameras now in the schools help with security and also with the “major problem” of vaping, according to Dr. Rossi. There are currently five and soon to be six armed security guards in the schools; one at each school and two at the high school. Horns and strobes installed on each building will alert emergency personnel if other communication systems fail.

Lt. Avenatti and Chief Spideletto talked about the problem of people flocking to the scene of an active shooter and clogging the roads. Various emergency personnel from different departments have trained together and established protocols so that a “reunification” site where families would meet up, would be at a different location than the site of an active killer.

Sparta resident and former Australian Special Forces member Lawrence Wilson allowed people to practice their shooting and response skills on the active shooter simulation machine, donated by Mohawk House and Steve Scro.





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