NORTHFIELD BOARD OF EDUCATION FILE CODE: 5131.7
Northfield, New Jersey
WEAPONS AND DANGEROUS INSTRUMENTS
There is nothing more frightening to parents/guardians, teachers, and children than the thought that loaded firearms might be brought on to school grounds. It is, therefore, the responsibility of all education and law enforcement officials to be prepared to act swiftly, calmly, and deliberately in response to a firearms incident.
School staff members should keep in mind that more often than not, when a firearm is brought on to school grounds, it is not used to terrorize others or to engage in gang-related violence. Rather, in most cases, the weapon has been brought on to school grounds to impress others, that is, to “show off” to friends and classmates. That fact, however, by no means minimizes the seriousness of the situation or the need for a prompt and decisive response.
Rules and regulations promulgated by the state board of education make clear that whenever any school employee develops reason to believe that a firearm has been brought on to school grounds; or that any student or other person is in possession of a firearm, whether on or off school grounds; or that any student or other person has committed an offense with or while in possession of a firearm, whether or not such offense was committed on school grounds or during school operating hours, then the school employee must report the incident or information, as soon as possible, to the principal or, in the absence of the principal to the staff member responsible at the time of the alleged violation. See N.J.A.C. law enforcement officers are excluded from the regulation regarding carrying a weapon.
At that point, either the principal or the responsible staff member is required by regulation to notify the Superintendent of Schools who, in turn, is required to notify, as soon as possible, the county prosecutor or other law enforcement official designated by the county prosecutor to receive this information. The Superintendent of Schools must provide to the county prosecutor or designated law enforcement agency all known information concerning the matter, including the identity of the student or staff member involved.
Note that this reporting requirement applies with respect to information concerning the unlawful possession or use of a firearm. Thus, school officials have a responsibility to report information to law enforcement even in cases where school officials did not directly observe, much less seize and secure a firearm.
In a closely-related vein, rules and regulations promulgated by the state board of education provide that whenever a school employee seizes or comes upon any firearm that employee must immediately advise the county prosecutor or other appropriate law enforcement official and must secure the firearm or weapon pending the response by law enforcement to retrieve and take custody of the firearm. The Superintendent of Schools must be informed by the employee. School employees having custody of a firearm are required to take reasonable precautions, in accordance with local board of education procedures, to prevent its theft, destruction, or use by any person.
It is critical to note that teachers and other school employees are not required to take a gun away from a student. If a teacher or other school official learns that a student is carrying a firearm, the correct response is to immediately notify the principal or Superintendent of Schools, who must then immediately call the police.
If a school official discovers a firearm in a desk, locker, or other location, he or she should not pick up or handle the weapon. Under no circumstances should the school official try to determine whether the gun is loaded. Rather, the correct response is to notify the principal or Superintendent of Schools and to watch over the weapon to make certain that no one else takes or uses it until the police arrive on the scene.
Finally, it should be noted that the recently adopted Zero Tolerance for Guns Act, P.L. 1995, c.127 and 128, (N.J.S.A. – 18A:37-7 et seq.) imposes additional administrative responsibilities upon school officials when a student is found to have brought a firearm on to school grounds, at a school- sponsored function or on a school bus.
Knives and Other Deadly Weapons
Some weapons are especially dangerous and simply have no lawful purpose. Switchblades, gravity knives (which are similar to switchblades but use centrifugal force rather than a spring to open), ballistic knives (which literally shoot out the blade as a projectile), stun guns, and metal knuckles would fall into this category.
Pursuant to rules and regulations adopted by the state board of education, whenever a school employee seizes or comes upon any dangerous weapon other than a firearm, the school official should immediately advise the county prosecutor or appropriate law enforcement official, and secure the weapon pending the response by law enforcement to retrieve and take custody of the dangerous weapon. As with firearms, a school employee who has taken a dangerous weapon into custody is required to take reasonable precautions, in accordance with local board of education procedures, to prevent its theft, destruction, or unlawful use by any person. The employee is responsible to notify the Superintendent of Schools.
Note that the procedures concerning a knife or other deadly weapon are somewhat different from the rules concerning firearms. Whereas school officials are absolutely required in all cases to call police when a firearm is discovered, school officials are encouraged, but not required, to call police upon discovery of certain other types of weapons. In deciding how best to exercise discretion, school officials should use common sense.
In deciding whether to call the police, school officials should carefully consider the nature and danger of the weapon and any legitimate uses that it may have. Utility or razor knives, sometimes also called “box cutters”, for example, have many useful and legitimate functions, but are nonetheless also used by some adolescents as easily concealed weapons, and generally do not belong in schools except, perhaps, in arts and crafts classrooms.
It is also very important to understand that school employees are not required or expected to use physical force to take a weapon from a student. School officials, in other words, should never try to wrest a weapon away from a student. Rather, the correct response is to notify the principal or the Superintendent of Schools and immediately call the police, who are equipped and specially trained to respond to these kinds of potentially violent situations.
It should also be noted that state law imposes certain disciplinary requirements if a student commits an assault upon a teacher, administrator, other school employee, or another student with any kind of weapon. Specifically, these assaulting students must be immediately suspended. N.J.S.A. 18A:37-2.2.
When a student is accused of having possession of a weapon, parents/guardians will be called immediately by the principal or Superintendent of Schools. Although parents/guardians may not interfere or suspend the notification of the police, the parent/guardian may be present for discussions/questioning of the student.
Adopted: October 5, 1998