Superintendent, Mayor, Principal Address Parkland School Shooting

Community leaders expressed their thoughts and feelings about the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday that has – as of this publication – ended the lives of 17 people and left 14 others wounded, five of them with life-threatening injuries. The names and ages of the eight young women and nine men killed are:

  • Alyssa Alhadeff was 14-years-old
  • Martin Duque Anguiano was 14-years-old
  • Scott Beigel was 35-years-old
  • Martin Duque was 14-years-old
  • Nicholas Dworet was 17-years-old
  • Aaron Feis was 37-years-old
  • Jaime Guttenberg was 14-years-old
  • Christopher Hixon was 49-years-old
  • Luke Hoyer was 15-years-old
  • Cara Loughran was 14-years-old
  • Gina Montalto was 14-years-old
  • Alaina Petty was 14-years-old
  • Meadow Pollack was 18-years-old
  • Helena Ramsay was 17-years-old
  • Alex Schachter was 14-years-old
  • Carmen Schentrup was 16-years-old
  • Peter Wang was 15-years-old

Roselle Park School District School Superintendent Pedro Garrido stated, “Obviously, our thoughts are with the families and the school community in Florida. Our administration constantly reviews our security plans to make sure everything is covered, and makes adjustments, as necessary, in collaboration with the Roselle Park Police Department. Also, the State Department of Education has strict requirements for conducting drills and we comply with all of the mandates. We do an excellent job in maintaining security and we are always proactive in looking at ways to improve student safety, especially after such a tragedy. As you know, the safety and security of our students is our number one priority and we take it very seriously.”

Mayor Carl Hokanson remarked, “[It’s] very sad. My feelings go out to the victims and their families. Congress and the people need stronger guns laws. It’s a shame that in this country you have to be 21 to buy alcohol or [in New Jersey] cigarettes but at 19 you could buy a rifle.”

In New Jersey, it is unlawful for any under the age of 21 to purchase or own a handgun but long guns (rifles) can be purchased starting at age 18. Automatic and semi-automatic rifles – such as the Colt AR-15 – are illegal in New Jersey but .50 caliber rifles are legal. The Garden State has one of the strongest gun laws in the nation.

“I’m all in favor of gun rights,” said Mayor Hokanson, himself a retired Roselle Park Police Lieutenant, “but this is ridiculous! Why do I need an AR-15? I don’t hunt.”

The head of the borough has previously taken part in Mayors Against Illegal Guns and, in 2016, he declared June 2nd as ‘Gun Violence Awareness Day’. At that time, Mayor Hokanson commented, “Being a Marine, I’m all in favor of . . . background checks. Being a former police officer, I know what guns can do so I’m all in favor of it.”

The mayor concluded with, “It is even sadder that we no longer can say [our] schools and places of worship are safe. Enough is enough!!!”

For some in the community, the tragedy 1,200 miles away really hit home.

Roselle Park High School Principal Sarah Costa drove by Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School regularly when she lived in Florida. She, like other parents and educators, feels the worry and pain of such violence but she also understands the responsibility of doing everything she can to keep those in her care – both students and staff – safe. Mrs. Costa took time to communicate with parents as well as students about the general steps being taken to keep everyone safe. The announcement, in part, reads:

Good Morning,

Wednesday’s events in South Florida are weighing heavily on many of us. To reassure our students and, again focus on being proactive, we will be practicing lockdown drills at the high school, just to give us extra reassurance that we can properly lock down in all scenarios. We do these [regularly] and always do them very well. When the state department came last month unannounced to review our lockdown procedures, they were VERY impressed with our lockdown procedures and how the drill worked. I wanted to reassure you as parents by letting you know this in advance, so as to not be concerned when you hear about the drills next week.

My administrative team and I will be visiting all the homerooms to speak to the students personally over the next few days. We will be addressing these points:

  • Reminding students and staff that if they see something, or hear something, say something. If they see anything at all improper on social media, report it. I will be giving specific examples to the students.
  • Reminding students about NEVER opening any door to ANYONE, even someone they recognize.
  • Reviewing the new policy of entering and exiting only through the front door and explaining the importance of this policy and why we need everyone to follow this plan.
  • Reviewing what to do in various lockdown scenarios, and answering any questions they may have about these specific scenarios.

We do an excellent job with security here at the high school. It is very important for everyone to be proactive in the safety of our students. If you hear something or see something, please say something. My door is always open and I respond to emails very quickly. If aware of anything disturbing on social media, please report it right away. When we all work together to be proactive, we are best prepared.