A task force charged with improving security at Bergen County schools recommended sweeping changes Thursday to how local districts identify and protect against possible threats.
The group, led mostly by members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, urged schools to voluntarily adopt the proposals, which include creating teams to spot students with mental health issues, training school personnel on security plans and encouraging students, teachers and administrators to download a cellphone app that would let them anonymously report suspicious behavior and communicate during a lockdown.
Dennis Calo, the acting county prosecutor, said his office can neither compel school districts to follow the recommendations nor help them pay most of the associated costs. Still, he hopes the task force report, made public at a Thursday news conference at the Harrington Park School, will push administrators to adopt the changes.
“We’re sort of a bully pulpit when it comes to trying to get them on board,” Calo said. “A lot of this is persuasion … this is going to be a process. We’re in this for the long haul.”
The Prosecutor’s Office, the county Freeholder Board and the county executive created the task force last April in response to school shootings across the country, the report said. Its aim was to bring together law enforcement, county government, mental health professionals, school administrators and private individuals to find weak points in schools’ defenses and establish best practices.
“No one group or stakeholder alone can eradicate violence in schools, but working together we can minimize the types of risk to our schools that have become inherent to modern society,” the report said.
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Jim Tedesco, the county executive, is listed as one of the group’s chairmen. Sheriff Anthony Cureton is listed as a coordinator.
The task force will also offer accreditation to any school that meets its standards, the report said.
The Prosecutor’s Office has already trained about 1,500 school personnel, but Calo said he wants to expand that number significantly. The report also asked districts to demand that employees go to the training, which will focus on the report’s recommendations.