The Wall Township Schools are on course to have unarmed guards posted at the entryways to each of its seven school buildings during school hours, police and district officials said Monday.
More than 100 attended a 7 p.m. meeting, a joint production of the Wall Township Police and the school system, which was called to discuss school security following the discovery of a former student's violent plot to harm scores of classmates.
The two-hour session touched on the April incident that triggered a police investigation into a then-fifth grade student’s violent threats against fellow students, and eventually uncovered a plot to harm at least 40 pupils and others, as well as the district’s response and the school system’s plan to beef up security.
Police Chief Robert Brice, whose children attend Wall Township schools, led the meeting and fielded the majority of the more than 40 audience questions. Interim schools Superintendent Stephanie Bilenker and other district officials were also on hand in the Wall Township High School auditorium to comment, interject and answer questions.
“I have children in the (school) system and I know a lot of children in the system,’’ Brice said. “We take this very seriously. I can tell you the principals and the school staff take it seriously.”
The school district, in consultation with the police, plan to build vestibules into each of the school buildings – a sort of limbo area between the outside of the school and the inside of the school proper – where two unarmed guards, security cameras and a new system to scan the driver’s license of every person seeking access to the school would be filtered before gaining entry, Bilenker said.
The district would pay for the guards “for now,” who would carry walkie-talkies with a direct line to the police department, and it would seek funding from the state to offset the cost of the vestibules and other planned security measures. Bilenker was unable to set at timeline Monday for either measure.
Brice said retired police officers would be sought for the guard positions.
Both Brice and Bilenker talked about a “fast pass’’ system, which Bilenker said would be paid for by the district and would be installed at each of the schools. No price was given Monday.
The system, Brice and Bilenker said, would scan the driver’s license of those requesting entrance to the school and match that license against those on sex offender registry lists, like Megan’s Law.
But one parent pointed out that the most recent threat was from within the student population, not from a danger from the outside.
“This is not some pedophile walking in through the front door,’’ the woman, who did not give her name, said. “This is a classmate.’’
Brice said encouraging children to speak up when they see something was the best line of defense before talking about the difficulty, time and expense of implementing metal detector system, which a previous questioner asked about.
The former student at the center of the controversy, whose name is being withheld because of his age, will be charged in juvenile court with harassment, creating a false public alarm and making terroristic threats, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office has said.
The student’s court date is tentatively scheduled for Sept. 23 in Freehold before Judge James J. McGann. Unlike adult court cases, juvenile court hearings are closed the public.
The boy faces a possible sentence of two years probation, officials have said.
District officials in April found a note containing general, but violent threats and removed the student from the Central School and he was never allowed to attend the Intermediate School this September. He has been attending an alternative education program, officials have said.
The note led to a police investigation in which a computer was seized, and a plan was found that named 40 district students at the Intermediate School and some celebrities as possible targets, authorities have said.
Wall Police at first called the plan “elaborate,’’ and compared it to a “Columbine’’ or “Newtown’’ mass casualty event. The Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office later said those comparisons were inaccurate and called the plan “non-specific.’’
“We believe it was more of a fantasy-type thing he had,’’ Wall Police Lt. John Brockriede has said. “Not something he was capable of actually carrying out.’’
At Monday’s meeting, Brice hammered home that point several times, saying the child’s plot had "elements of fantasy,’’ and reiterating that the boy had no access to weapons.
The Board of Education may plan to discuss security measures when it meets Tuesday, but the board made no indication of any discussion Monday. Neither a mention of the meeting nor its agenda was posted to the school board's website late Monday.