Repollet: In the Past Month, NJ Schools Have Had Over 200 Threats

TRENTON – In the larger deadly roil of gun violence in schools, the Senate Judiciary Committee this morning considered Governor Phil Murphy’s nomination of Lamont Repollet as Commissioner of the Department of Education.

When he grilled Repollet today, state Senator Gerald Cardinale (R-39) lingered for a significant time on school safety.

“What would you recommend a school principal do if he hears that a student or someone else in the community has declared that he wants to be a professional school shooter?” Cardinale said. “What’s the response?”

“The Department of Education provided guidelines,” said Murphy’s nominee. “But understanding the basic relationship between law enforcement and school districts. From [drills] we can assess best practices and actually come together and deploy. The Department of Education is a resource for school preparedness.”

“Obviously the drills are extraordinarily important,” said the veteran Republican senator. “But what seemed to be lacking was any attempt to deal with the person who had expressed an obvious intent to commit a crime. What do we do to prevent that declared individual from acting on those declarations?”

“Senator, I would go back to our memorandum of understanding, I’m not going to speak for the entire state. In the past month we’ve had 200 or some threats.”

State Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) stayed on the school safety issue.

“I want to thank you on behalf of the work you’ve done on behalf of the students in the state of New Jersey,” Cardinale told Repollet, noting how well prepared and well-spoken she thought the students were this past weekend who protested gun violence.

Earlier in the hearing, Cardinale tried to pin down the nominee – who came up through the Carteret School System to land the top position as superintendent in Asbury Park – on the subject of charter schools, and how he handled the incursion of competition in his last home district.

“The position that Asbury Park was we were going to go high when everyone else went low,” Repollet said. We didn’t talk about the charter schools in a negative sense. We talked about programs we in the Asbury Park System created. We highlighted our programs and as a result of that, students started coming back to the school district. We felt that we were going to create a product that people were going to choose first.

If competition worked well, “Why do we have this moratorium on charters schools [in the Murphy Administration],” Cardinale wanted to know.

“We’re going to have that debate, to find that root cause, and from there we’re going to create a plan,” said the nominee. “That review is going to be transparent and provide equity. We’re going to look through the lense of this administration, not the previous administration.”

“It seems you’re not going to just shut off charter schools,” the senator pressed, again attempting to get Repollet to bite on acknowledging the presence of charter schools as an opportunity to improve existing public schools.

“I’m saying we’re going to have a comprehensive review,” Repollet said. “Regulations state charters have the right to apply. We’re going to look at it through the lens of a comprehensive review. I haven’t heard anything about a moratorium on my end.”

Cardinale said “let’s move on.”

Other senators took less time with Repollet.

“I have found a kindred spirit,” said state Senator Nia Gill (D-34).

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