Danielle Walker, mother of a Dickinson High School student, told the Jersey City Board of Education that her daughter is one of the many who has been afraid to attend school due to a threat of mass violence made on social media that led to extra patrolling at the school on Monday.
“She said to me that she did not want last night to be our last night together,” Ms. Walker said at Monday night’s virtual school board caucus meeting.
A 16-year-old girl was charged Monday with threatening violence against a group of Egyptian students at the high school after a day of increased police presence.
Parents like Walker are pressing the board to ensure student safety and to provide mental health resources to help students cope with their fear caused by the threat.
“The burden of keeping a high school of over 2,000 students safe should not fall on a fraction of security guards,” Ms. Walker said. “They are very low in numbers, and they need support.”
Although Ms. Walker said Dickinson teachers and support staff are doing everything in their power to create a supportive environment, she questioned whether the district as a whole is doing the same.
“Mental health support is long overdue,” Ms. Walker said. “Students need therapeutic counseling. Today’s crisis was a clear example of that.”
Schools Superintendent Franklin Walker mentioned the threats in his opening statement at the meeting, thanking the Jersey City Police Department for its swift response.
The need for counseling services could not could not be more pressing given the board’s vote to to end a contract for such services for the 2021–22 school year with vendor Reimagined Mind. Per a board vote in November, the contract will end Dec. 17.
Jessica Taube, a parent who has spoken twice already at board meetings about the need for student counseling in the schools, said Monday that she is still waiting for a clear response from the board on the matter.
“I received a letter from Superintendent Walker last week. Unfortunately, this letter does not address the clarity and information we are looking for,” she said.
In response, Superintendent Walker said social, emotional, and mental health will be addressed in large part through an extended day program within the schools and that a program called “Stop Everything and Communicate” as well as other initiatives has been successful.
“Can we do more? Absolutely. Will we do more? Absolutely,” he said.