Update, 6:48 p.m.: This article was updated with comment from a SOMSD spokeswoman.
As many Maplewood Middle School parents voice growing concerns about the school district’s handling of an incident where a student brought a handgun to school Wednesday, Acting Superintendent James Memoli and MMS Principal Jerrill Adams sent a letter district-wide Thursday afternoon detailing the actions the administration has taken.
The student involved is “under detention and will not be returning to Maplewood Middle School”, according to the letter. Maplewood Police are investigating the incident.
MMS Principal Jerrill Adams addressed the school community in a news broadcast, congratulating students and staff for their conduct in the lockdown and commending students who told teachers there was an unsafe situation.
Students then engaged in guided discussions with teachers about the incident.
Here is the full text of the letter:
June 4, 2015
Dear South Orange Maplewood School District Community:
As you may have heard, there was a code red lockdown at Maplewood Middle School yesterday. The Maplewood Police initiated a thorough investigation of the school and lifted the lockdown when they were sure that the building was secure and that all students and staff were safe. We thank all students and staff for comporting themselves perfectly during the lockdown, although we know that this was extremely stressful for all involved.
Our primary focus today has been to support all of our students at Maplewood Middle School:
- Additional staff members were on-site from the beginning of the day, including all building social workers from across the district, as well as members of the district’s Senior Leadership Team.
- The school day began with a staff meeting to inform the faculty of the plans for the day, and what supports would be in place for both students and staff.
- Once students arrived in their first period classes, Principal Adams addressed the school community in a live news broadcast shown in every classroom. Principal Adams congratulated students and staff for their conduct during the lockdown, and commended the many students who informed teachers and the principal that there was an unsafe situation. He stressed that their smart actions helped the adults take the necessary steps to keep everyone safe. His remarks are attached.
- Immediately following the news address, students engaged in guided discussions with their teachers allowing them to express their feelings and share strategies for managing difficult situations.
- Principal Adams had separate small group meetings with those students who missed the news broadcast, including 8th grade students who start their day at CHS for mathematics.
- All students were informed that counselors were available throughout the day if they wanted to speak privately about their feelings or concerns, and many students made use of this service.
- At the end of the day, Principal Adams again commended everyone for coming together as a school community. Staff members escorted students out of the building to ensure they made it off school grounds safely.
Going forward, counselors will continue to be available for all students who would like to express their concerns and feelings. We also attach some parent resources to support you as you discuss these issues with your child.
The Maplewood Police are now conducting an investigation into the circumstances that caused the need for a lockdown. Because of the ongoing police investigation, we are not at liberty to give you specific information about the reasons for the lockdown. We are also constrained by legal privacy considerations regarding how much information we can share about our students.
We are, however, able to share the Maplewood Police Press Release from yesterday, which is attached to this letter. We continue to be in regular communication with the Maplewood Police Department, and have been authorized to share that the person associated with the events referred to in their Press Release is under detention and will not be returning to Maplewood Middle School. We will continue to update the South Orange and Maplewood School District community with further information, as we are so authorized by the Maplewood Police Department.
We are all grateful that all are safe at Maplewood Middle School, and that the school’s response to the events was exemplary and wholly according to plan. We will continue to fully cooperate with the Maplewood Police Department as it conducts its investigation and will inform you of any developments as we are authorized and able to do so. Thank you for your understanding and concern.
James Memoli Jerrill Adams
Acting Superintendent Principal of Maplewood Middle School
The letter was sent with attachments including a transcript of Principal Adams’ remarks and a list of resources for families.
Meanwhile, some parents have started a petition asking the district to hold an assembly and a community-wide forum to address the issue. As of 4 p.m. Thursday, the petition had nearly 300 signatures.
Others have sent emails and letters to the district asking for more concrete steps.
In one letter sent to Memoli and Adams, a parent said the district should handle “this very grave situation” by holding a face-to-face, all-school meeting to help dispel rumors. “What happened yesterday is an issue for the entire school to deal with, not just the few kids who voiced their fears,” the parent wrote.
“Administration and teachers did address this issue with the entire school,” said a district spokeswoman Thursday evening, citing the school-wide live broadcast from Principal Adams and the classroom discussions. “Teachers were given scripts and discussion questions to guide these discussions. Students who were not present at first period had separate discussions with the principal and other staff. We decided on this approach because our social workers and administrators determined that small group discussions would be a more comfortable way for students to share their feelings honestly than in a large, full school assembly.”