Councilman Michael Ballard, seen here at a June 29 forum, cited . (Photo by John T. Ward. Click to enlarge.)
By JOHN T. WARD
The Red Bank council tabled a plan to put armed police in the borough’s primary and middle schools Wednesday night.
The council’s second session of the month ended with quarreling among members over a requested change to the meeting schedule.
On the agenda was a proposed resolution authorizing a shared services agreement with the board of ed to put a school resource officer (SRO) into the primary and middle schools beginning with the new school year in September.
Councilman Ed Zipprich , a member of the governing body’s education and technology committee, said “a number of issues” remained following a meeting Friday with schools Superintendent Jared Rumage and Darren McConnell, who serves as both interim borough administrator and police chief.
Ballard cited a May 21 petition filed with the New Jersey Board of Education by 19 rights organizations calling for the adoption of rules to guide the use of state security funding provided to school districts.
The petition asks the state board to “prohibit the use of security aid on ineffective expenditures, such as school resource officers (SROs),” according to an announcement on the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey website. “SROs have been shown to negatively impact students, with disproportionate negative effects on students of color and students with disabilities.”
“I think we need to flesh that out,” Ballard said. “The civil rights of our children are vastly important, as are their safety and protection,” he said.
Sue Viscomi, a school board member who said she was speaking as an individual, and not on behalf of the board, called the rationale for the tabling “ridiculous.”
“We already have police officers going into the school” as part of a daily check by the RBPD, she said. “We already have them at events. They already do walk-throughs. They’re already involved.
“God forbid anything happens. I don’t want it on my conscience, and I don’t think anybody wants it on their conscience, that ‘we could have done something,'” Viscomi said. “I’m sorry you guys are punting this.”
Wallace Street resident Cindy Burnham said it was “imperative” that the program begin.
Under the agreement, one officer each would cover the primary and middle schools whenever they’re in session.
At the July council workshop, Sturdivant voiced concern that the SROs would have training in “diversity, equity and inclusion, because a lot of these SROs have been targeting people with disabilities, and particularly, minorities.”
McConnell said the AG’s guidelines require diversity training as well as de-escalation training as part of the certification process.
As the meeting appeared near its conclusion, Sturdivant asked to reschedule both August meetings, slated for the 10th and 24th, each by a week, “due to some conflicts among council members.”
She did not specify the conflicts, adding only that “there are multiple conflicts.”
Triggiano and Horgan both objected, but lost the vote to change the first meeting. They agreed with the rest of the council to cancel the August 24 meeting, leaving only one regular session for August.
The intervening argument prompted a rebuke from Branch Avenue resident Stephen Hecht, who said the whole council “should be ashamed” of its conduct. “This is just lousy government,” he said.
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