A large New Jersey school district will place armed retired police officers in its buildings through at least the end of the 2022-23 academic year.
The board of education in Middletown unanimously approved the measure earlier this week in the wake of a mass shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 students and two teachers.
The largest kindergarten through 12th-grade district in Monmouth County with more than 9,200 students, Middletown will have a Class III special officer in each of its 16 schools.
Class III officers must have retired within the past three years and be less than 65 years of age, according to the New Jersey School Boards Association.
“This action, along with increased funding for mental health services, is a commitment from our administration, board and township to put our children first and foremost,” board of education vice president Jacquelin Tobacco said in a statement.
The district and the township have reached an agreement in which the officers will be paid $50 an hour through the end of the 2021-22 school year and no more than $35 an hour during the 2022-23 school year, according to a letter of intent.
Middletown Mayor Tony Perry said on Twitter that the move to put armed cops in schools is long overdue.
“I tried to do this my first year as mayor but unfortunately the BOE at the time did not want police with weapons in the schools,” Perry wrote on Twitter on Thursday.
The NJSBA couldn’t immediately be reached for information on the number of other districts in the state who have armed guards in schools.
The addition of class III officers will enhance the security measures already in place in school, a police department spokesman said Thursday.
“The schools already have excellent security measures,” Deputy Chief Paul Bailey said by phone Thursday. “It’s always been a high priority and now we’ll have a permanent presence in place.”
The police department will be looking to hire Class III officers in the coming weeks. The title of Class III officers was established by state lawn in 2016. Class III officers are permitted to carry guns.
The township council in Middletown is expected to discuss the measure at its workshop meeting on Monday.
Township officials couldn’t immediately be reached Thursday.
A day after the Texas shooting, acting state Attorney General Matthew Platkin said directed State Police and all 21 county prosecutors in the state to “increase law enforcement presence at schools throughout New Jersey effective immediately.”
Middletown police said following the Uvalade massacre that the “public may observe an increase in the presence of uniformed police and marked patrol cars at the campuses of the elementary, middle, and high schools in the township.”
Superintendent Mary Walker said the district will continue to work with police to keep the district’s schools safe.
“The collaboration between the Middletown police and our school district is instrumental in maintaining a secure school environment,” Walker said last week. “We value the support they provide on a daily basis to ensure the safety of our students, staff and visitors, as well as their expertise as we continually evaluate our security procedures and practices.”
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Jeff Goldman may be reached at email@example.com