Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey on October 9, 2004 · Page 5
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Asbury Park Press from Asbury Park, New Jersey · Page 5

Asbury Park, New Jersey
Issue Date:
Saturday, October 9, 2004
Page 5
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SATURDAY, OCT. 9, 2004 ASBURY PARK PRESS FROM PAGE ONE PAGE A5 Attack on school improbable, parents, students reassured By CAROL CORGA WILLIAMS and RODNEY POINT-DU-JOUR STAFF WRITERS RUMSON Police officers were out in force yesterday at Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School and spent the day shielding students and staff from the media, whose throng outside the building grew larger as the day wore on. And last night, parents filled the school's gymnasium to receive reassurances from county and state law officials that their children are not at risk of a terror attack on the school. The community meeting, attended by Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye and Sidney J. Caspersen, director of the state Office of Counter-Terrorism, came a day after the news broke that a computer disk containing information about the high school's vandalism policy had been found on the dead body of a physicist in Iraq. Well over 300 residents from Fair Haven and Rumson filled the gym last night. Some were angry, others were frightened, but most of the parents were curious about how and why a disk in Baghdad had information about a school on Ridge Road in Rumson. "Why was this CD out there? Why did they have information about our school?" asked Kathleen Lunman of Rumson, whose son is a senior at the high school. "I feel they are not telling us the whole truth." Kaye explained to the parents that he was notified Sept. 16 by the state Office of Counter-Terrorism and was told not to release the classified intelligence information to anyone who didn't need to know. Kaye did inform Rumson police, and later told Bob Smith, superintendent of the Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School District. Kaye said as soon as the intelligence was declassified by U.S. Army officials, he was able to inform the rest of the community. "We wanted to get the information out," said Kaye, who added that he would have shared it with the public sooner if permitted. Caspersen, a former FBI agent, apologized to the parents if they were angered by the delay in releasing the information, and tried to reassure those who might feel endangered. "The way terrorism works is through fear," Caspersen said. "We have to defeat the fear." ,1 r Rumson Patrolman Robert Boyer was one of several officers on duty outside the high school yesterday after news broke that information about the school was found on a computer disk in Baghdad. (STAFF PHOTO: BOB BIELK) said she feels the school is safe from a terrorist attack. "I feel the school is as safe as it's ever been," Goione said. "I have faith in our administration and the security that's here." For Nancy Savoca-Traub of Rumson, the meeting raised more questions than answers. "It makes you think that there is so much more to this," Savoca-Traub said. "If this is all they're telling us now, what are they not telling us?" Security beefed up When the school day began yesterday, an announcement came over the public address system that discussed the situation in general terms, said Emily Tooker, 16, a sophomore at the high school who was leaving school early because she wasn't feeling well. Tooker, of Rumson, said the increased police presence had been at the school for at least a week prior to the release of the information yesterday. "I wish I knew before," said her mother, Laura. "It's good. I'd rather have the police around." Kim Goione, 43, of Fair Haven Not everyone was impressed with the increased security, which includes a person posted at each of three critical entrances. The other building entrances have been closed, students said. The guards at the doors are armed only with whistles, said Charlie Ham, 14, a freshman. "Before, all the doors were unlocked and everyone would walk right in," said Ham, of Rumson. Now there are security guards and police. "It was kind of weird. All you have to do is say, 'I'm part of the staff,' and they let you right in." Ham said he felt safe in his town before the news. "I was really shocked by all this," he said. "It's a very small town Now that everybody is saying this on the news, it shows Rumson is not safe. We're just like everybody else." T.J. Geltzeiler, 14, a freshman who lives in Rumson, said he is nervous because he feels the district is not being upfront about the information. "I feel safe, but I feel they're not telling us the whole truth," he said. Greg McCracken, 14, a freshman from Rumson, said if anything, security at the school should be improved. "I was concerned because the people guarding the doors don't have anything but a whistle," he said. This is McCracken's first brush with a worldwide event. "This is like a 'Happy Gil-more' town. Nothing ever happens here," he said. Andrew Hewitt, 14, a freshman who lives in Rumson, said spending the day in classes was pretty rough because the teachers did not talk about what was going on. "It was horrible and sad that someone would do something like this," he said. Teachers didn't talk about it "because people were scared, I guess." Andrew's twin brother, Will, talked about learning of the incident through the public address system during first period. A second announcement was made shortly before 2:40 p.m. dismissal, which advised the students not to add to "misinformation," presumably a warning not to speak to the media. Mary Anne McDonald, a parent with a daughter in the high school, said, "Obviously, I'm concerned" about potential threats. But she wasn't shocked at the news. 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Hnurs: Moo, - Fri nm-6nni Sal. A Sun. Hlam-Spm Precautions FROM PAGE Al such as construction workers. Kaye said the finding was a "wake-up call," adding that authorities "assumed the worst, then we acted immediately." However, state authorities didn't know about the finding until last month. Military officials had seized the computer disk in Iraq in July but officials saw no threat risk and didn't issue any specific warnings. Then came the siege last month at a school In the Russian city of Beslan, which killed more than 330 people, many of them students. Kaye noted that Russian Investigators are looking into the possibility that weapons had been hidden under the floor of the attacked school during summer construction work. "Monmouth County has 495 schools. That's a lot of schools and a lot of targets," Kaye said. Monmouth County Schools Superintendent Eugenia Law-son said the state Department of Education issued a Sept. 22 advisory that, while not mentioning the possibility of a specific threat, urged local administrators to review their emergency procedures. School patrols stepped up The Rumson Police Department increased patrols at the three public and three private schools in town on Sept 16, when the state Office of Counter-Terrorism informed the Prosecutor's Office of the disk finding, said borough Police Chief Edward Rumolo. At the time, local authorities h ) 'f4- 'bp Monmouth County ProMcutor John Kayo presides at a news conference yesterday on stronger security precautions in schools. (STAFF PHOTO: JACKIE POLLACK) believed that the building plan for the high school on Ridge Road, Rumson, had been downloaded to the disk, Kaye said, based on a written FBI summary of accounts relayed by interpreters. Bomb-sniffing dogs from the county Sheriffs Office were brought into the high school on Sept. 19, a Sunday, but the dogs did not detect munitions, Rumolo said. Kaye said an FBI agent reported on Sept. 29 that the only information related to Rumson-Fair Haven High on the disk was on the vandalism and bullying policies. Kaye added that local authorities have never seen the disk. "It's probably being held in some vault someplace outside the U.S.," he said. Rumolo said borough police have continued to implement heightened security at the schools. "We arranged our shift schedules to have more police presence at the schools, and that will probably remain in place at least through the elections (on Nov. 2)," Rumolo said. "We have responded, but it's important to stress that no Rumson school building plans were found on the disk." Delving into the records Kaye and Rumolo said borough police files from the last three years were researched including arrest reports, incident reports, and radio logs for leads that might develop into information about a planned terrorist action. Kaye and FBI officials said the disk also contained information about a school from Franklin Township, Gloucester County, and some schools in five other states. Kaye said Rumson-Fair Haven High School's Web site was checked to see if sensitive information had been posted, but none was found. FBI spokesman William Eva-nina said, "There's no terrorism threat to these schools. It's open-source activity from the Internet." Kaye said it's unknown how many local school building plans have been posted on district Web sites. "But if these plans are on Web sites, please take them off," Kaye said he told school officials when he met with them Sept. 21. In a separate warning this week, the U.S. Education Department advised school leaders nationwide to watch for people spying on their buildings or buses. The Associated Press contributed to this story. '.''L"v.- ' ,'"' " '-"Y l i ndiii i jMttiiiiiiri' iris rm r J S l" 1-v America Starring Dewey Bunnell & Gerry Beckley "One of the Most Influential Groups of the Seventies" Frl., October 22, 8 PM POLLAK THEATRE BOX OFFICE 732-571-3483 MONMOUTH UNIVERSITY w I I HrrnrrTPra v55i jjgj ! , LARGE on it. P.: Hi II! 6 il MOVING R.J. FURLONG & COMPANY CLOTHIER IS PLEASED TO ANNOUNCE OUR NEW LOCATION Four doors down WITH A SPECIAL SALE on Selected Quality Menswear Suits Sportcoats Sportswear Slacks SALE NOW IN PROGRESS THRU OCTOBER 18TH MOVING DAY IS OCTOBER 19TH R.J. FURLNG&CO. 1 CLOTHIER -J Vit HOURS: MON.-FRI. 10-9 ' SAT. 10-6 SUNDAY 12-5 Brook 35 Plaza 2150 Highway 35, Sea Girt, NJ 08750 (732) 974-2353 SIZES: Regular 38-50 Long 40-50 Short 38-44 X-Long 44-50 O ! 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