Imagine a student in your high school today turns out to be an alleged international terrorist five years from now.
“New Jersey Jihadist wanted to mutilate gays, blow up high school as troubled teen” was the NY Daily News headline on Tuesday afternoon.
School: NJ terror suspect was dangerous as student blazed across the Associated Press wires.
Both stories highlighted how one of two terrorism suspects arrested at JFK airport over the weekend was removed several years ago from his New Jersey high school due to his potential danger. According to North Bergen High School spokesman Paul Swibinski:
“School officials were very concerned about having him in the building,” Swibinski said. “They were concerned for the safety of the other students and the staff.”
The male was reportedly placed on “home instruction” according to the stories.
A number of school safety issues and questions arise from this story:
- What would your school leaders do if they developed reasonable suspicion that a student had truly terroristic intentions?
- What should officials do if they have a student or students enrolled in their school whose family members are arrested in connection with alleged terrorist plots?
- Has anyone considered the possibility of terrorist cells including teens planted as students at an American high school?
While these questions sound far fetched, the only thing that is certain today is that nothing is certain today.
I first raised the issue of a terrorist threat to schools in my 1998 book, Practical School Security. I have also forced the conversation on schools as potential terror targets at a time when most were, and still are, uncomfortable in discussing the issue. Several related posts (see below links) have also appeared in this blog.
The good news from one of Tuesday’s story is that one of the schools of the recently arrested terror suspect reportedly had contacted local law enforcement and the Department of Homeland Security regarding the student in question. Concerned educators should always report their safety concerns to law enforcement when they feel there is a threat to the security of their students, staff, and school.
We should not be paranoid, alarmist, or seeing terrorists around every high school hallway. But out of fear of alarming parents and creating public panic, our nation’s leaders and education leaders have downplayed and neglected the issue of terrorism and schools. The Beslan Russia school terrorist siege of 2004 should have changed the conversation, but at best it only did so for a very brief time.
Have you given any thought to schools as potential targets for terrorism? What would your school leaders say if they were faced with the above questions?
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