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Abusive attacks on board and staff resume at Palisades board meeting


At the Palisades School District’s Aug. 17 board meeting, a public comment session featured aggressive and abusive verbal attacks on the board and its staff, of the sort which had not been seen since the easing of pandemic protocols.

The meeting had moved back into the high school library after over a year in the auditorium, where the board and superintendent had been seated on the stage. Back in the now more intimate location, one speaker pounded her fist on the podium, while shouting at Superintendent Dr. Bridget O’Connell, who was seated about 6 feet away.

That resident was among several others expressing their deep disturbance about a trespassing incident at one of the school buildings in July, and especially hearing about it from a local media outlet before the superintendent sent out the first of her own messages to the community on that subject.

Several speakers demanded to know what the board and staff were doing about security, with an undercurrent strongly implying they had been inattentive to the security of the school buildings and the safety of their children. One was surprised to hear that some aspects of security measures were not made public, and was invited to write to the superintendent about his concerns.

The district and its staff have established a long-running working partnership with the state police, including their presence on-site. In addition, they periodically review comprehensive memoranda of understanding with township police departments in the district. In the last several years, various hardening installations and security protocols have been established in the school buildings and properties, while various particulars are not publicized, in the interest of security effectiveness.

The July incident is still characterized, at this writing, as a “simple trespass” by the state police. It remains under their active investigation, and has been assisted by appeals to the community for help, from the district superintendent. The state police have observed the usual law enforcement protocol of no further comment from them while the matter is still under investigation.

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