Schools Affected by Jersey City Active Shooter
An active shooter incident in Jersey City, NJ significantly impacted several schools in the area. Four victims were killed on December 10th when a male and female suspect opened fire on a police officer and the occupants of a Jewish grocery store. Responding police officers engaged the shooters in an extended gun battle, during which several rounds struck a school directly across the street from the grocery store. According to the Mayor of Jersey City, surveillance footage and other evidence may have indicated the suspects were originally targeting a Jewish school next to the grocery store. According to the Mayor of Jersey City, surveillance footage and other evidence may have indicated the suspects were originally targeting a Jewish school next to the grocery store.
Key Learning Points
- This active shooter incident is strongly suspected to be motivated by anti-Semitic political ideologies held by the shooters. If your school or site is at risk of being targeted due to similar ideologies, contact your designated terrorism fusion center via the Department of Homeland Security to conduct a threat assessment and access other safety resources.
- “Lockdown” training does not prepare students for active shooter incidents like the one described above. Kids and teachers need to be aware of different hiding locations within their classrooms to keep them safe from projectiles fired from outside. Contact our team to learn more about age-appropriate active shooter training options for K-12 schools.
- In this incident, a highly secured entry door prevented the shooters from entering a Jewish school and victimizing the students inside. Statistics indicate the vast majority of active shooters targeting elementary schools are “outsiders”, meaning they are relatively unknown to the school and originate their attack from the exterior of a school. Alternatively, the vast majority of active shooter incidents in middle and high schools originate via an “inside” attacker (e.g. a student or other person authorized to be on school grounds). Consider this information when implementing different safety and security measures on your campus.
FERPA and School Safety: Do You Know the Basics?
Recent active shooter incidents in schools have showcased the importance of information sharing between school administrators, local law enforcement, and mental health professionals. For instance, the Parkland Commission, formed after the Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting, found that a lack of communication between school officials, mental health professionals, and local law enforcement contributed to the shooter “slipping through the cracks.”
Students’ personal information and education records are safeguarded by FERPA – the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It’s common knowledge that student records can be released to outside parties with consent, but many school administrators are unaware of the health and safety exceptions to releasing information protected by FERPA. The US Department of Education has released a resource outlining many of the common questions related to FERPA health and safety exceptions. To read a full copy of this resource, click here.
Key Learning Points:
- Schools may disclose education records to other school officials, provided these officials have “legitimate educational interests” in the records. However, schools MUST provide a definition of these “school officials” in their annual FERPA notification rights. They must also define “legitimate educational interests.”
- Law enforcement officials who are school employees may be considered school officials for the purposes of FERPA disclosure if they meet the criteria specified in a school/district’s annual FERPA disclosure notification.
- Schools can disclose education records without consent to outside LE officials, mental health workers, and other expert members of a school/district threat assessment team as long as these experts meet certain criteria.
- Student records may be disclosed “in order to address a specific and articulable threat of a health or safety emergency.” This exigent disclosure must be “necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.”
- The US Department of Education’s definition of an “articulable and significant threat” is intentionally flexible and is designed to provide school administrators with appropriate discretion in its application.
- A record must be kept of any records/information released without consent.
- Health and safety exceptions include disciplinary records related to an “articulable and significant threat.”
- FERPA applies to disclosure of education records and specific student information. School officials are NOT prohibited from releasing information about a student that was obtained through the school official’s personal knowledge or observation.
Wisconsin Student Shot by Police in High School Classroom
A 17-year-old Wisconsin student was shot by police after fellow students reported he was carrying a gun on campus. According to Captain Dan Baumann of the Waukesha Police Department, the student brought two pellet guns to school in an effort to threaten another student with whom he’d been engaged in an ongoing dispute. The suspect pointed one of these pellet guns at another student’s head, and witnesses reported the threat to the school office.
A school resource officer and police detective were at the school when the incident was reported, and they immediately made their way to the classroom where the armed student was located. The classroom was evacuated, and the SRO and detective began negotiating with the armed student. During the negotiation, the student pulled a pellet gun from his waistband. Believing the pellet gun was a firearm, one of the officers shot the armed student three times. The injured student was transported to a local hospital and is listed in stable condition.
Key Learning Points
- Recent active shooter incidents in schools have increased the likelihood that students will report threats against their fellow students. Active shooter training for schools is helping.
- Have a plan in place to address reports of armed students and/or staff members. NEVER call an armed student or staff member to the school office! Always notify law enforcement immediately and allow them to address the threat.
- Active shooters often engage in “exploratory” acts of violence before committing to a full-fledged attack. Targeted acts of violence (including specific threats) should always be taken seriously and addressed accordingly.