Tuesday, June 9, 2015


Hundreds of residents, parents and school district staff packed Maplewood Middle School Monday night for a very heated town hall-style meeting in the wake of last week's arrests of two students on charges of bringing weapons to school, with many asking why it happened and how it will be resolved.

School district officials, as well as representatives of police and township administrations, listened for several hours as those in attendance asked what was being done to prevent such incidents in the future, raising issues of bullying as a potential cause for some students feeling frightened, as well as others who wanted more details on these incidents.

At issue was the arrest last Wednesday of a 13-year-old Maplewood Middle School student on charges related to bringing a loaded handgun to school, as well as the Thursday incident at Columbia High School where a 15-year-old was charged with bringing a kitchen knife in the building along with an airsoft gun.

Officials revealed that both students were apprehended after other students informed administrators and teachers of the weapons. Each has been removed from the schools for at least the remainder of this year, although officials said the CHS student will not be allowed to return. They remain in the county juvenile detention center.

During last night's meeting, acting Superintendent James Memoli sought to alleviate fears and stressed that safety is the most important factor for school officials.

Maplewood Middle School Principal Jerrill Adams disclosed that there were 52 suspensions from MMS in the past year, with more than half involving the same 10 students. That's 31 incidents or 60%.

He said the remaining 40%, or 21 students, were suspended once. He added that 96% of students have never been suspended and "present no significant behavioral problems whatsoever."

But he also stressed that "as a public school, they are entitled to a free and appropriate education. And that means when they come back from suspension, we welcome them with open arms and continue to provide them with a wide variety of intervention and support services."

Still, residents were concerned with what some said was a lack of support for students with bullying concerns, others raised the issue of out-of-district students being allowed to attend district schools and claims that many are not properly removed. At one point at least two residents spoke up about the need for metal detectors at the schools, but most in the crowd spoke out against that idea.

See some of the resident comments below:

But while the panel of officials listened to hours of concerns from parents, few answers were given or specifics on what is being done or what prompted the two incidents.

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