WEST ORANGE, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Some schools in New Jersey ramped up security in the wake of Wednesday’s deadly Florida high school shooting.
Nervous students were greeted by police at Kelly Elementary School as they arrived for class Thursday morning, CBS2’s Natalie Duddridge reported.
Parents dropping off their kids said while police provide a sense of relief they’re also a symbol of a grim new reality.
“After yesterday I just feel insecure and I feel really bad for the parents that are suffering right now. It’s pretty tough,” parent Jessica Espinoza said.
Espinoza said there’s fear in the back of her mind every day now when she drops her first-grade son off at school but she doesn’t want him to feel anxious.
“He doesn’t know. I don’t want to tell him. He’s just in first grade so I don’t want him to worry,” she said.
Police were also stationed at all West Orange elementary, middle and high schools hoping their high visibility will put parents at ease and deter copycats.
“You never know what’s going on inside somebody’s mind and that’s why we take these extra steps to show that we are there and we are prepared to respond,” West Orange Police Captain Kevin Dalgauer said.
That response is constantly shifting.
“There were a lot more police officers than usual,” one West Orange High School student said.
“It got a little tighter. They’re getting a little more strict with us wearing IDs,” fellow student Lee Richards added.
The suspect in the Florida shooting pulled the fire alarm causing panic and now that means schools are reevaluating how teachers respond to fire drills.
“We have to really reevaluate how we’re doing fire drills and safety drills but there is no one way that we can plan for it and that’s what’s really challenging,” said West Orange schools superintendent Jeffrey Rutzky.
State laws in New Jersey mandate schools hold fire drills twice a month, and complete four other exercises throughout the year, including shooter, lockdown and bomb threat training. For some young students, those exercises feel all too real.
“They had an active shooter drill and my second grader thought he was going to die,” said parent Jackie Scott. “He said they all hid in the corner huddled.”
Students in West Orange said despite undergoing training drills each month, they couldn’t imagine what they would do in an emergency.
“I think it would just be a big panic. I don’t think that the organized drills really would work. I think like yesterday, everyone would just start running,” said Mariange Charles-Antonio.
It may be terrifying, but teachers at Kelly Elementary School say they can never be too prepared and that their sense of responsibility is at an all-time high.
West Orange schools superintendent says there is a fine line between making sure parents have enough information while at the same time making sure the safety protocols stay out of the wrong hands.