CAMDEN – Holding blood red carnations and bright yellow demonstration posters, students streamed out of the Camden High School campus building and onto Park Boulevard.
“No more violence!” some students shouted.
Some giggled — as kids in front of news cameras might — as they walked swiftly down the school’s front steps. Their hand-written signs called for an end to gun violence.
Students across the nation participated in similar school walk-outs Thursday, with the same message: Stop gun violence in our schools.
The small demonstration emerged moments after Camden City Schools Superintendent Katrina McCombs announced new measures to protect her public school district children.
Every public school campus in the city, including Renaissance and charter schools, will have an immediate heightened police presence, she said.
Armed police officers will patrol school grounds through the end of the school year, and into summer break while summer school and other youth activities go on inside the buildings at least until August.
McCombs and Camden County Police Chief Gabriel Rodriguez are discussing what law enforcement presence will look like on Camden’s public schools campuses come September.
Rodriguez’s immediate concern is for “copycats” acting after Tuesday’s devastating school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
Two teachers and 19 students were killed in the Texas shooting. It came just after the United States hit 200 mass shootings nationwide for 2022, and 10 days after 10 people were gunned down in a Buffalo grocery store.
“Our families deserve to know and be assured their students are safe each and every day,” McCombs said.
By Sept. 1, every city school building will have silent alarms to protect every door. The installation is already ongoing, with several schools’ silent systems already active.
Until then, Rodriguez’s Metro force — with support from the Sheriff’s department and prosecutor’s office — will keep a close watch on Camden schools.
City high schools are already covered, the chief said.
Two to three officers will be sent to schools daily as part of officers’ daily walking beats. The increased campus patrols will bring no additional cost to the school district. The department may see officer overtime increases, though, Rodriguez said.
“They’ll give their life to stop that person from harming any children,” the chief assured.
“We train constantly to respond to these types of incidences.”
Carly Q. Romalino is a Gloucester County native who’s covered South Jersey since 2008. She’s a Rowan University graduate and a 10-time New Jersey Press Association award winner.
Romalino is based at the Courier-Post and covers South Jersey schools and education issues for the Courier-Post, Daily Journal and Burlington County Times.
She hosts NJ Press Pass, a live social media-based interview show diving into what matters to South Jersey residents.
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