The school district has retained Strike Force Services, a security company, to do a “vulnerability assessment” of security in various school buildings. According to the Sept. 19 school board agenda, Strike Force will be paid $26,000 to do this study.
During field visits to schools last week, Strike Force personnel were seen walking on school grounds while armed, according to school staff. In at least some cases Strike Force employees were wearing the visitor stickers people who are not part of the school community must wear, but were unescorted by school staff as they walked around school buildings.
“The members of Local 2262 want to express our concern regarding recent incidents that occurred last week in Jersey City public schools,” AFSCME Council 52 Executive Director Rick Gollin wrote in a Sept. 16 letter to Lyles. “We have received several accounts that unknown individuals entered school grounds and buildings without prior notification to school security personnel or other staff. In some cases, the individuals declined to state their names although they possessed [Jersey City Public School] badges. We are told some of the individuals were openly carrying firearms. The individuals were acting suspiciously, entering and looking around in areas on school property where unauthorized individuals have no business. We are [now] told that these individuals were working for a company called Strike Force Services hired and directed by [Jersey City Public Schools] to probe schools for security shortcomings…To actually direct strangers to enter schools in this way is dangerous.”
Several members of the Board of Education said at a meeting Thursday night that they, too, were unaware that armed Strike Force employees would be visiting school grounds.
A phone call and e-mail sent Thursday to Maryann Dickar, chief of staff to Superintendent Lyles, seeking comment had not been returned by Friday morning.
Several parents have commented to the Reporter and online that students and staff could have been endangered if school security had intervened in an attempt to disarm the Strike Force employees.
It is unclear how many or which specific schools Strike Force employees visited. – E. Assata Wright