Th following message is from Jeffrey Gale, Director of the Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning, NJDOE:
This evening I received intelligence from the New Jersey State Police Regional Operations and Intelligence Center regarding a protest action that was initially to be attempted at a Mercer County Public School, on school grounds. A group identified as ACLU’s People Power informed the district of the intent to protest, and the district and the police department in turn informed them the activity would not be permitted on school grounds. As a result, the group voiced an expectation that there would be interference in what they deem to be peaceful protests and that they were requesting that the State Police oversee the activities.
As this has unfolded, further information indicates these protests may be attempted at schools statewide, and that the initial rejection when making the request of the Mercer County school may result in unannounced protests across the state. The size of the initial group was stated to be between 12 and 15 members strong. This group is soliciting new members for involvement, including school students. Literature attached to this message, and a link to this information https://go.peoplepower.org/event/action/23777 indicate the group is encouraging students to protest peacefully in their respective classrooms, and also indicates the intent to continue these protest actions throughout the month of February.
This message is intended to provide you with advance notice of the possibility that such protests may arise on your campuses without warning, may be attempted by group members on school property, and may include student protests within schools if the recruitment effort is successful.
It is suggested that your schools seek legal guidance from your respective board attorneys on addressing this situation, that you connect with your local law enforcement agencies to plan for such protests, and that you be prepared for the possibility that students may engage in protest actions within your schools during school hours. Schools should be aware of the potential for protestors to engage in actions intended to result in arrests in order to gain media attention and should revisit current policies and procedures for addressing inquiries from parents, local stakeholders, and the media.
Please be reminded that safety and security remain paramount, that minimizing or eliminating disruptions to the learning environment remain part of this equation, and that consideration must be given to protecting first amendment rights throughout this process.
Should you receive information relating to this matter, please notify law enforcement as appropriate, and please inform my office in order to for us to remain updated on such actions should they occur as expected. As always, please first notify law enforcement of any emergencies or immediate threats to public safety by calling 9-1-1.
We will provide updates and additional guidance on this matter as may be appropriate. As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our schools and students, and please don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions, concerns, or information bearing on this matter.
Jeffrey G. Gale
Office of School Preparedness and Emergency Planning
New Jersey Department of Education
100 Riverview Plaza | Trenton, NJ – 08625