In light of the rapidly evolving events in the Middle East, the New Jersey Department of Education is re-posting remarks made on March 7 by Commissioner of Education William L. Librera at a conference entitled Homeland Security: Bridging the Communication Gap conference. His remarks contain advice for schools as the nation remains on high-alert status.
In addition, the Department of Education is again posting a link to a Web-site launched earlier this month by the federal Department of Education and the federal Department of Homeland Security. The link is:
COMMISSIONER WILLIAM L. LIBRERAS REPORT
Presented at the Conference on
Homeland Security: Bridging the Communication Gap Conference
March 7, 2003
- We in the education community see ourselves as an important
part of disaster preparedness and response and of bridging the communication
gap. As we all remember, on September 11, 2001, the children
both those most directly affected by the loss of a family member, as
well as those affected as members of the general public -- were in school.
- In view of the federal governments recent announcement of the
Code Orange designation for terrorist threats, it can be helpful to
understand that Code Orange is primarily intended to heighten the level
of alert and activity on the part of security and law enforcement personnel.
While the New Jersey Homeland Security Office has indicated that there
is no reason for special action on the part of schools at this time,
it is important for schools to review their readiness to respond to
any type of emergency or crisis.
- Since September 11, we have all been educated about responding to the needs of children and adults, and in preparing for the future. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to review school obligations and share with you some of the initiatives that we in the Department of Education have undertaken to meet these challenges.
Regulations for Emergency and Crisis Management Plans
- Each district board of education is required to establish plans, procedures
and mechanisms for responding to emergencies and crises.
- Since the district plans, procedures and mechanisms must be developed
in consultation with law enforcement agencies, health and social services
agencies and emergency management planners, schools have been reminded
to reach out to these collaborative partners to confirm existing plans
and share relevant information.
- Districts are also reminded of their obligations to ensure that all district staff are prepared to recognize and appropriately respond to crises, consistent with the districts plans, procedures and mechanisms for managing crises, and that the training programs for district staff must be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.
- New regulations addressing school safety, violence, substance
abuse and health services were adopted by the State Board of Education
in April 2001.
- A discussion paper proposing the development of regulations on student discipline has been approved by the State Board of Education and will be published for public comment in early March 2003.
- Schools may want to review the New Jersey Department of Educations
publication titled A Guide for the Development of a Districtwide
School Safety Plan, which includes a section on school building
emergency and crisis management planning. A copy of this document
has been provided to each school district and is available on the departments
- The department has also developed a Resource Manual for Intervention
and Referral Services. This publication provides guidance for schools
to implement building-based problem-solving teams, as required in the
regulations that are established to identify and remediate academic,
behavior and health problems at early stages of identification.
- Additional information and resources on crisis management and prevention and intervention programs can be found at the United States Department of Educations Web site.
- As required under the anti-bullying, harassment and intimidation
statute enacted in September 2002, the department has developed and
published on its Web site a Model Policy Prohibiting Harassment,
Intimidation and Bullying on School Property, at School-sponsored Functions
and on School Buses.
- To comply with the Unsafe School Choice Option Policy requirement in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, the department is developing a policy that will permit within-district transfers for students attending persistently dangerous schools and students who are victims of violent criminal offenses. The policy will be finalized and disseminated to districts in May 2003 for implementation in September 2003.
The department has implemented a variety of initiatives intended to reduce violence and other at-risk student behaviors, as well as to bolster our homeland preparedness:
- Schools in South Jersey were the sites for distribution of Potassium
Iodide pills, which were made available to New Jersey residents who
live within ten miles of nuclear reactors. Our New Jersey AmeriCorps
program, which is hosted by the Department of Education, assisted with
the Potassium Iodide distribution, and also assisted with logistics
at New Jerseys first smallpox "vaccinate the vaccinators"
- In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we worked with the U.S. Department
of Education to make available special funding to local education agencies,
including Charter Schools that were impacted by the attack on the World
Trade Center. The School Emergency Response to Violence program (Project
SERV) under the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act provided
education-related services to LEAs in which the learning environment
had been impacted by these violent, traumatic events. Resources were
used to assist children in the short and long term.
- Over $8,200,000 in federal Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities
Act funds has been provided to schools in the 2002-2003 school year
to support locally-determined violence and substance abuse prevention
and intervention program activities.
- The Intervention and Referral Services Initiative, which provides
training and materials to building-based problem-solving teams.
- Showcasing of Exemplary and Promising Practices, in which
program sponsors from the Exemplary Practices list developed
by the United States Department of Educations Safe, Disciplined
and Drug-Free Schools Expert Panel will be invited to showcase their
programs for new Jersey educators at a one-day conference in May 2003.
The proceedings will be videotaped and disseminated to all school districts.
- In January 2002, the department developed and disseminated for review
a revised version of the New Jersey Comprehensive Health Education
and Physical Education Curriculum Framework to support the Health,
Safety and Physical Education Core Curriculum Content Standards.
- Safe Schools and Communities Violence Prevention and Intervention
Response Pilot Plan Initiative, which piloted a comprehensive planning
process for school crises. A report of findings from the pilot program
will be distributed to schools in the spring of 2003.
- The Children We Share: Principals and Parents Promoting Youth Development
and Discipline Initiative, under which manuals, CD-ROMS and videotape
programs, which include guidance and research on effective discipline
and youth development practices, were provided to all New Jersey principals.
- Youth Gang Prevention and Intervention Project, which is a
collaborative initiative between the Department of Education and the
Juvenile Justice Commission, designed to provide gang prevention and
intervention curricula to juveniles, a statewide conference on gang
issues and a public speakers service on gang topics.
- Juvenile Offender Reentry Project, which is a collaborative
initiative among the department, the State Parole Board and the Juvenile
Justice Commission, designed to provide support to students reentering
their communities from juvenile facilities.
- V-Free Initiative, in which the Department of Education is
supporting the efforts of the Department of State to provide seed funds
to students for grassroots violence prevention activities.
- Peer-to-Peer Transitions Project, which is a collaborative
initiative between the Department of Education and the Department of
Health and Senior Services in which students are provided support in
their transitions from middle schools to high schools.
- Student Support Services Planning and Development Initiative,
which is designed to provide support to thirteen districts who have
applied to refine or reform their student support services programs.
Exemplary work products resulting from the initiative will be showcased
- New Jersey Student Health Survey done in collaboration
with the Departments of Health and Senior Services and Law and Public
Safety, the department is developing and administering a new survey
that will consolidate four existing student surveys to yield one set
of middle school and high school student health data.
- Plans are under way to implement services and resources to aid schools in organizing Community Service for Suspended and Expelled Students.
- Planning is under way to address the recommendations of the
student discipline policy forums conducted in the fall of 2001, which
include the following: development of regulations, guidance documents
and publications, provision of training and technical assistance, increased
interagency and intra-agency collaboration and convening an advisory
panel to consider consistent uses of alternative education policies
and programs for general education students who are suspended or expelled
- The Department of Education is part of our States Domestic Security
Preparedness Task Force, which was convened by Governor McGreevey, and
which is chaired by the Office of the Attorney-General. The charge to
this group is to prepare operational continuity plans for all state
agencies. We have undertaken security surveys of all DOE facilities.
State government staff has participated in table top exercises related
to smallpox and bioterrorism. And we receive guidance on responding
to the various threat response alert levels (the color coding) that
is promulgated by the federal Homeland Security Department. As this
planning goes forward, schools will be a focus of attention, both in
providing shelter for families, and in planning for bioterrorist response.
To enhance communications, we have invited representatives of the Department
of Health and Senior Services to provide a briefing for the County Superintendents
on bioterrorism. We are also working with school nurses, who are an
important part of the health response system.
- We are also encouraging outreach to the school community as plans
move forward to establish Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters
(VOADs) in each of the 21 counties. The VOADs bring together the Offices
of Emergency Management, the Red Cross and other disaster response agencies,
human services organizations, faith-based groups, animal shelters, food
banks, and bilingual services. Key leaders of the state VOAD are your
neighbors Cathy McCann of the NJ Community Food Bank in Hillside
and Brenda Beavers of the Salvation Army in Union.
- Finally, I am proud that our state AmeriCorps program has received
one of 16 national Homeland Security grants. The New Jersey Secure Corps
will deploy 20 members into the counties to assist in the development
of the VOADs and will work closely with the County Offices of Emergency
- Our message is a positive one. Though the issues that lie before us are complex and troubling, through education we can prepare ourselves and the wider public to be engaged, prepared, and helpful. I also believe that young people can and should be involved in community activities. Through education; through communication; and by taking action together we can get beyond the fears that we may be experiencing and move forward in Americas spirit of service, citizenship, and responsibility.