Suit alleges school security guard dismissed for exposing vulnerabilities

(Richard Alan Hannon/The Advocate via AP)

School safety and the hardening of our institutions should be a top priority going forward in our society. Left, right, and center can argue about everything else under the sun when it comes to mitigating or stopping acts of violence directed at students in learning institutes, but a lot of that is noise. The immediate and simple hardening techniques that can be implemented will save lives. It was shocking to hear a high school security officer recently alleged he was retaliated against for being honest about school security vulnerabilities.

A former Ramapo High School security officer is seeking damages in a wrongful-termination lawsuit that targets the school’s principal and security director, and the school district, for retaliating against him “speaking truthfully” to a parent about a security concern.

The suit, filed June 28 in the Superior Court of Bergen County, stems from an incident that occurred on June 7, when Principal Travis Smith informed William Kirsch, who was employed in the position for three years, that his contract would not be renewed, because the school was “going in a different direction,” Kirsch alleged in the suit.

The discharge came two weeks after Kirsch, while he was on duty, had, the suit alleges, spoke “truthfully’ with a parent about the front doors of the school being unlocked, and then agreed with her that the unlocked doors were “not safe.” Kirsch, of Ramsey, said he was denied renewal as retaliation “for reporting and not concealing a set of circumstances,” which are contrary to state regulations, state policy and the policies of the Ramapo Indian Hills Regional High School District Board of Education.

This is going to be a tough sell, even in New Jersey. However, New Jersey is an at-will employment state, where if there is no contract, people can be dismissed without cause. Given there was a contract involved does not mean that Kirsch will be protected by any exemptions in the law. The contract was up for renewal. So they decided to not renew. A sidebar here is this would be a great way to handle teachers. Individual contracts up for renewal every couple of years. No bueno? Adios!

The troubling thing about all this is what’s being alleged. Is there some sort of other squabble going on here we’re not aware of? Probably, or certainly possibly. But if there’s any truth to the claims, the situation is abhorrent.

He alleges, in the suit, that “for some weeks” prior to June 7, the door was broken and could not be locked, and that he was told by school district Security Coordinator Charlie Wolff, on June 7, that he “should have lied” about the door and there were “things parents didn’t need to know.”

Kirsch then spoke with school Vice Principal Claudia Dargento, the suit alleges, about the door and the interaction with Wolff, and still, the school “said nothing” and “hid this very serious issue and breach of security” from the public. Dargento then, Kirsch alleged, told Kirsch not to “put anything in writing.”

The door security was a concern, Kirsch said, particularly in the wake of a Texas elementary school shooting in June that killed 19 children and two adults.

These kinds of situations usually are lose-lose. If the door was such a concern, there are whistle-blower avenues that could have been used to try and raise awareness and have the problem remedied. Even with “no questions asked” polices, and whistler-blower protections, generally management in an organization will know who said what and eventually get even in other ways.  If Kirsch was asked to lie about the non-functional locks, that’s also a problem. The boots on the ground facts are unknown, but let’s assume regardless of the other particulars of this case, the door was not locking like it was supposed to, and that’s a failure big time.

The current clime and issues we’re facing, a functional lock on a door would be the bare minimum of security features needed to safeguard our children, and their loving staff members. In New Jersey in particular this is important, because we’re not dealing with a jurisdiction that’s evolved enough to adopt something like the FASTER Saves Lives program, where school employees, including teachers, voluntarily get training in triage medicine and armed protection on school grounds. New Jersey’s been living a disarmed lifestyle for so long, this is a concept alien to them beyond their own ken. Besides all that, the ink has not even been laid down on the first set of concealed carry permits to be issued in the state, as everyone is fumbling through the process in the glorious post NYSRPA v. Bruen world. Arming teachers would make the pinko NJEA teacher’s union go apoplectic.

Should there be a factual basis to Kirsch’s suit, I say “bravo and go get ’em.” We live in a cancel culture of zero tolerance on just about everything. It may seem that the wrong party got canceled here. We’ll have to see how it all fleshes out.