Police officers will be present at each of Evesham Township's elementary and middle schools through the end of December, township officials said Thursday, three days after a 14-year-old boy tried to provoke officers to shooting him outside Van Zant Elementary School.
The teenager had a replica gun and told investigators he wanted to force officers to shoot him in a suicide attempt, police said. No one was injured.
No Evesham Township police officers were patrolling the school when the incident happened around 3:50 p.m. Monday.
Mayor Randy Brown has pressed for a full-time police presence at the district's seven elementary and two middle schools, which have been patrolled on a roving basis by three officers. The high school in the township, Cherokee, already has two full-time officers present.
"Our most precious gift are our children; in these times we must be proactive and preventative when making security decisions regarding our children," Brown said in a statement Thursday on the township's Facebook page.
On Facebook, Brown said the township hoped to work out a long-term patrol plan with district officials by the time students return from winter break.
Superintendent John Scavelli Jr., while expressing support for the additional patrols, said developing a long-term plan that quickly could be difficult. That is because the school district is in the middle of its budget cycle, which runs from July to June.
For the three officers already patrolling the elementary and middle schools, Brown said the district and the township were splitting the $100,000 cost. The township is to pay for additional officers in the schools through the end of the year.
"Coming up with a sustainable long-term plan by the end of winter break, as a practical matter, is easier said than done," Scavelli said in a statement. "Nonetheless, we will do our due diligence to come up with what most likely will be another short-term plan prior to a long-term plan which would have to work itself through our budgeting process."
Police said investigators do not believe the boy in Monday's incident intended to harm anyone at the school, which had dismissed students for the day but briefly went on lockdown for teachers and after-school clubs remaining inside.
It was initially believed the state troopers who tackled the teenager may have been picking up children at the school, but state police said Thursday they were working a non-uniformed patrol on the New Jersey Turnpike.
Detective Timothy Long, one of the troopers, responded after receiving a call from a family member who had seen the boy with the replica gun, state police said.
The teenager, who has not been named, was taken a mental health facility for evaluation. He faces charges of aggravated assault, unlawful possession of a weapon and other offenses.