Bloomfield Families for Sensible Safety has launched a petition campaign to express opposition to the $550,000 budget approval to implement Class III Armed Guards in Bloomfield Elementary Schools.

Here is their statement (the group also urges concerned citizens to attend tonight’s (Thursday, May 24) Board of Education meeting at 7:30 p.m.):

The group, as taxpayers of Bloomfield, calls for the cancellation of the hiring of Class III Armed Guards or stationing of any Guards with firearms at Bloomfield Elementary Schools until all taxpayers have been informed in detail of the plan, and have been given the opportunity to prepare and present their opposition and propose alternative solutions. Organizing continues as parents work to inform parents that armed guards have been approved in the Board of Education budget and gather and propose security alternatives.

The Motivation For The Movement

Bloomfield Families for Sensible Safety opposes the budget decision made without informing the parents/guardians and concerned citizens and/or offering them the opportunity to ask detailed questions, and to express their concerns. At a School Safety Community meeting on 3/12/2018 with New Jersey Department of Education Representative Tom Gambino, many approaches were presented and discussed with citizens, and at no time was it made clear that the implementation of armed guards was on the express docket for budget approval. Most parents understood that many other security mechanisms presented in the meeting would be implemented first before resorting to firearms in the elementary schools.

Early stages of opposition to the budget approval to implement Class III Armed Guards included very productive and informative meetings with both Bloomfield and State Department of Education representatives. Following a 5/2/2018 meeting between Brookdale Parents Maria Sanders and Noel Gatts, and Superintendent Goncalves, Head of Elementary Education Fleres and Interim Facilities Manager Scazasave. Sanders and Gatts shared a briefing of the meeting with interested Bloomfield parents. Gatts spoke on the phone at length with Jeff Gale on 5/4/2018 of the NJDOE office of Security and Preparedness to gain further detail on their recommendations, and to ask questions and express concerns. Again, Gatts shared a briefing of this meeting with interested Bloomfield parents. Several Bloomfield Elementary parents, including Gatts, spoke at the Board of Education meeting on 5/8/2018 to express their concerns and opposition.

On 5/17/2018, spearheaded by Janet Treadaway and a group of concerned Brookdale parents, an online petition was posted to gauge public interest in alternative security solutions. The petition calls upon the Department of Education leadership to first direct security funding toward implementing the other aspects of the NJDOE-suggested “holistic approach” to security that although proven effective, are still unimplemented in Bloomfield elementary schools.

The district has yet to begin the Sandy Hook Promise training, though there is movement here by parents, with support from Fleres. Elementary schools have yet to ensure better hides and lockdown procedures for each classroom. There are gaps in staffing for mental health. Many Bloomfield elementary schools still need grounds surveillance and security equipment to ensure that only authorized visitors/staff/students gain entry to the building from monitored entrances and exits.

Noel Gatts, one of the group’s leaders and an Elementary and Middle School parent, says, “We applaud the ongoing efforts of the Bloomfield Police and Education Departments in their continued commitment to improving emergency lockdowns and response times. We appreciate and support their commitment to our children’s safety and education, and we are hopeful that we can work together to improve both for our students, teachers and staff without introducing firearms on a daily basis into their educational environment.”

Statement from Bloomfield Families for Sensible Safety:

We remain one of the safest townships in one of the safest states in America. Our gun sense laws are working, and our improved commitment to mental health awareness and improving our educational systems should continue to propel us as a safe community with increasing real estate values. Armed guards at our elementary schools will only diminish these values and increase the sense of fear and foreboding that we as a state and community have taken great steps to avoid. In the words of Jeff Gale of the NJDOE Office of Security & Preparedness himself, “police officers are targets” when in uniform and that’s why they are compelled to always wear a weapon. Our hearts go out to them for their sacrifice, and our government is on task in improving this situation, but we certainly don’t need to intentionally place a target at our elementary schools with our very young children. We’ve seen endless evidence that having an armed guard does not stop mass killing incidents, but safer, quicker and more effective lockdowns and response times save lives. We have some of these things in place and are on track for continued improvement, and our tax dollars are better spent improving programs and increasing access to support for our students.