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MacArthur Bill Would Make it Easier to Report Threats to Schools

Ridgewood Police at RHS

file photo by Boyd Loving

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Toms River NJ, Congressman Tom MacArthur introduced two bills and is working on another to help local schools, students, and law enforcement officials address community and school safety concerns. The bipartisan Mental Health and Public Safety Partnership Act establishes a national pilot program to place on-site social workers in qualified police departments around the country, mirroring the work being done in South Jersey. The Modern School Threat Reporting Act creates new grants for states to create a mobile application (app) that allows students and teachers to report threats to local law enforcement. This bill mirrors the state law in Florida championed by school safety advocate, Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow was killed in Parkland. Mr. Pollack, founder of Americans for Children’s Lives and School Safety, has endorsed both pieces of legislation and is collaborating with MacArthur on the third.

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Ridgewood Board of Ed Claims they Never agreed that the school District would contribute to this position of School Resource Officer

the staff of the Ridgewood blog

Ridgewood NJ, according to the Ridgewood Board of Education ,“neither the Superintendent nor the Board has ever indicated to the Village Manager that the school District would contribute to this position and the Village budget reflects this understanding. Accordingly, the Board has not reneged on any agreements.”

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Falling Tree Puts Spot Light on Ridgewood School Safety

first_tree_Fell_theridgewoodblog
file photo by Boyd Loving

Travell safety

Hello to all,

I am writing this tonight because the gravity of what happened today seems to have been lost in the shuffle of the weekend l, and impending Halloween festivities.

A massive, tree-sized, tree branch fell across part of the playing field, the entire sidewalk and half of Bogert Ave at about 11:35 or so this morning. The entire 3rd grade was playing outside- 2 of whom are my children.
I am the Travell safety chair, and while this may seem frivolous, or decorative, it is in fact, a role I take VERY seriously. Twice in the last month, thanks to my persistent pressing of the safety issues brought to me by my fellow Travell parents, Travell safety has been on the agenda for the village council. I’ve attended the Citizen Safety Advisory Committee meetings to address them.  I am the only parent in attendance to address the issues. I am the only person at all to represent our school and it’s safety issues.

I take this role very seriously, evidenced by the fact that in my own free time I have walked the streets surrounding the school, and I look for safety issues within the neighborhoods. Broken sidewalks, overgrown shrubs, parking issues, speeding concerns, sight triangles issues, property maintenance issues. These are just some of the issues I have seen. I bring them some times repeatedly- to the attention of the code enforcement officer. Sometimes she sends them on to a more appropriate party.  Many, many violations have been addressed in the last few weeks thanks to our combined efforts.

I have mentioned several concerning trees to her. Many that are dead and overhang designated safe walking routes, or heavily traveled walking routes to Travell.

I walked all of the streets surrounding Travell with the assistant village engineer last spring. I mentioned several of the trees including the one which fell today. I was told trees really aren’t their department.  A huge part of this tree fell in the early fall across the exact same area!!  A Travell parent roped off the area until it could be addressed. This was on the walk to the school in the morning. Prime drop off time for hundreds of students. Another near miss. What else is it going to take?

Do we need a child to actually be struck and hurt- or worse, by a dead tree limb ON actual school grounds in order to take a very serious look at where there needs to be some work done?
We can have forum after forum about full day kindergarten. Spending God only knows how much money, just to spend more money, and then say we don’t have any money??
We can send newsletters and we can print signs and yet we can’t find it in the budget to hire a tree expert, an actual arborist, for the day, to ensure that the school grounds and the sidewalks surrounding them are safe? Or hire a safety expert to do a study of the area and see where we need some change? Often it’s small changes, signage or enforcement, that make ALL the difference. It doesn’t always have to be large ticket answers. It just requires some attention and concern.

I’m actually incensed at how close MY daughter was to this tree falling today.
Feet. She was feet from this. I happen to pass down this street EVERY day between 11:35- 11:45 on the way home from another school pick up. Many many days my daughter and her best friend see me and come run to the fence to yell hello to me as I pass.  Today, I was running a touch late. I very literally went to turn left down Bogert and instead went the other way. It is absolutely chilling to know, unequivocally, that they would have been standing IN this exact spot saying hello to me had I made a left turn and not a right.

We need to stop addressing every other issue as if it is life and death and pay closer attention to the ones that actually are.

I heard from parents over the last weeks, as we begged parents to walk their children to school for walk to school month, a myriad of safety complaints. Several times I was informed that they no longer have crossing guards to cross their elementary school children (ages 5-11 as a reference) at Van Dien and Glen because the BF one now leaves too early due to new changes with the outsourcing.

I am on record for EIGHT years at CSAC meetings requesting advice and help about the repeated parking on the Bogert/Cambridge ave curves which force dozens of students to walk in to the center of the street on a blind curve to walk to their school. Eight years and I’ve been brushed off and given every answer or response you can possibly imagine. Not one has made the situation safer. Not one suggestion stopped my daughter from being thrown from her stroller in an attempt to get out of the way of a speeding, texting driver last year with no where to go due to cars parked in the long documented, dangerous spots along the curve.
We are year after year refused even the conversation of a crossing guard at Bogert and Glen where no less than 65 school children LIVE, and dozens more use as a pass through-it’s too expensive! It’s $8k! We can’t even get simple pedestrian crossing signs at that crossing or another along Glen (Northern Parkway) because the town refuses to pay for them (they’re about $400 each!!!imagine!) so the Generous Travell HSA, at my request, will pay for them. So to actually break that down, these parents will pay some of the highest taxes in NJ, we have one of the highest per student spending budgets in NJ, and then we are going to pay EXTRA, out of pocket, for the signage that allows for our kids to have a way to cross the street safely to access their school.
What is next? What will it take before all of YOU put the safety of these students ahead of an agenda, or just the belief that “it’s not really our department”??
Today, any number of children were FEET from this massive tree branch falling, and a complete tragedy. What will you do to ensure that this doesn’t happen again? What will you do now that a documented issue has now presented itself so many times? I guess we could give them hard hats, or we could solve the actual problem.

I know we can’t solve every safety problem at every school without which a miracle occurs, but we have repeated, documented safety issues that are being ignored or shuffled off to someone else to deal with. There are hundreds of children in YOUR care and we expect that that is something you take seriously enough to ensure their safety.

I am sure you’re all familiar with the areas in question, but I implore you to come and walk these streets with me, and any other interested parent.

In fact, at this point, I can’t see why you wouldn’t.
Thank you for your sincere attention to this matter.

Melanie McWilliams