Assemblywoman Schepisi discusses school security ahead of town hall

BY Michael Aron, Chief Political Correspondent |

Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron is in Westwood with Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi who is holding a town hall Monday night on school safety.

Aron: Assemblywoman, what do you expect to hear tonight?

Schepisi: You know, I put this together because I am a mom myself and everybody feels so helpless. Through social media we also realized how little we know about our own school safety measures. So tonight I decided to do something and it’s apolitical. We brought together all the experts — police chiefs, school superintendents, teachers — to have an open, honest discussion about what we’re doing right, what we can do further to protect our children, and ideas that they want to see us as legislators enact.

Aron: This is one of your towns, there must be what, 12, 15 towns in your district.

Schepisi: 23.

Aron: How many of them, do you think, have armed police in the school right now?

Schepisi: It depends. We’ve had a couple of unfortunate incidents as copy cat type things since Parkland occurred and some of our schools already have school resource officers.

Aron: Are they armed resource officers?

Schepisi: In some of the schools, yes. We passed legislation approximately a year ago which enables that to take place, so some of our schools currently do have that. Some of them do not and have chosen not to, so tonight’s really a discussion about is this something we want to see? Is it a good idea or a bad idea to arm teachers?

Aron: What do you think?

Schepisi: I personally don’t believe it’s one of the better ideas. I think that there’s a big difference between learning how to shoot a gun at a range and learning how to mentally be equipped to actually shoot somebody and I don’t think we should put that onto our teachers.

Aron: What do you think about banning assault weapons? We had an assault weapons ban in the state of New Jersey. We do still have a ban, that’s right, but the federal ban expired 15 years ago, 14 years ago. Would you bring it back?

Schepisi: It’s something we absolutely have to look at. We have to look at everything. If we have the ability to be able to potentially stop future incidences and future slaughters, I think it’s incumbent upon us to keep an open mind to look at all options, including reinstituting that ban.

Aron: So many times now with these shootings there’s a lot of concern in the immediate aftermath and then it dissipates. Do you think things are different this time?

Schepisi: I think you have the passion of a younger generation who may not let this go. It’s very easy to kind of go on to the next tragedy, or next incident that occurs and sometimes people don’t become as focused. There’s a different energy this time.