February 9, 2017

    Somers Point Schools to Search Lockers, Desks After Knife Incidents

    SOMERS POINT — The school district will begin random locker and desk checks for weapons after knives were brought to a school dance and other incidents.

    School officials also will implement an app called STOPIT for students to anonymously report problems on their smartphones.

    Interim Superintendent Thomas Baruffi said at a school-safety forum at the Jordan Road School on Wednesday night the incident at the school dance Dec. 16 led to questions about security. Other incidents since increased the concerns, he said.

    “It was not just the dance incident,” he said. “Kids are bringing knives into school. Kids knew that other kids were bringing knives into schools. We have to recognize that we don’t know as much as we think we do.”

    Police Chief Michael Boyd said officers are assigned to visit all schools on a daily basis. That led to questions about whether the district should consider having its own full-time officer in the school or metal detectors. Baruffi said the school board would decide.

    Baruffi said the district could have done more to inform parents about the dance incident, but he said they also have to maintain the student confidentiality required by law.

    Boyd said no one was injured, but one student was charged with aggravated assault, possession of a weapon and terroristic threats following the dance incident, and others received other discipline.

    About 50 people attended Wednesday’s forum.

    “The climate has changed,” Baruffi said. “We are not taking this lightly.”

    The app would be provided free through the Atlantic County Joint Insurance Fund administered by Arthur J. Gallagher & Co. Area Vice President Scott Tennant said they see it as a way to reduce problems and litigation for participating school districts.

    Parents Richard and Jennifer Panas questioned if there was security at the dance and what will be done going forward both for student safety and to avoid potential lawsuits.

    Baruffi said there was no security and that the district is reviewing and tightening its own procedures to include checking backpacks and monitoring how many students are in the bathroom at one time.

    He said they also are looking at new anti-bullying procedures and other measures to address the overall school climate.

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