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POLL: Should More Be Done To Address East Brunswick Man's Role In School Fire?

About 500 elementary school students in Edison returned to class Wednesday for the first time since a fire destroyed their school building over the weekend.

Nearby Middlesex County College offered classrooms to teachers and students of James Monroe Elementary School following the devastating fire, according to news reports.

Custodian Jerome Higgins of East Brunswick apologized for tossing an unfinished cigarette into a trash can in the janitor’s office Saturday evening, sparking the blaze. He has been suspended and has received a summons  for smoking in a public place

“I think it was a very careless mistake by someone I trusted,” O’Malley said earlier this week, according to CBS2.

Should more be done to address Higgins's role in the fire? Please let us know in the poll and in the comments.

Tom Maras March 29, 2014 at 08:48 AM
How many other schools in the Edison school district are firetraps, because they little to no fire suppression systems? Mr. Higgins should be punish for his smoking in a 'Smoke Free Zone', if appicable, and for the damage his actions caused. The nonsense of putting people (custodians, teacher or others) on 'paid administrative leave', when such violations are so clear, has to stop. Outside of government, be it local, state or federal, where does this occur?
mrszzano March 29, 2014 at 09:40 AM
I would venture to say that 90% of the public (and private) schools in NJ have no modern fire suppression systems. What would it take to retrofit them all? MONEY. And lots of it. So many people are outraged, and rightfully so, that our kids are attending school in buildings that could be considered firetraps, but how many of you would approve a school budget that would double your school taxes? For now, the best we can do is fire education, fire drills, and most important, avoiding the obvious causes of fire, like cigarettes and open flames. This is the responsibility of every adult in the building. And, Bob, that school was not "ancient", in school building years. There are many schools that are approaching their 100 year mark. I'd start looking at those first.
David March 29, 2014 at 02:22 PM
Meanwhile there are laws that require new homes be fit with separate firesuppression systems increasing prices by30% minimum. Perhaps cutting down on the $100K+ administrators and dead wood could help subsidize the costs instead of continually going back to the gifthorse taxpayers. As to punishment, people screwup in life, perhaps 30-60days LWOP or something which will deter this in the future. This may have been a blessing in disguise as above mentioning this may have avoided children being killed where a circuit overloads(w breaker failing to trip) and burns building to ground.
Tom Maras March 30, 2014 at 08:04 AM
It is just over fourteen years since the tragic dorm fire at Seton Hall claimed the lives of three students, and injured many more. As a result of that fire, the NJ Legislature introduced bills to require sprinkler systems be installed in all college dorms in NJ, (http://www.nj.com/news/ledger/index.ssf?/news/ledger/stories/setonhallfire/fire03.html). Unfortunately, the legislation did not address K-12 schools. Both mrszzano and David make very valid points about the costs of retro-fitting schools with fire suppression system. But in today's world of technology, the costs of doing that may not be as restrictive as some think. In that connection, every school board in the state should conduct studies on installing modern fire suppression in schools and school district offices that currently lack them. Those studies should then be presented to the districts taxpayers for consideration. The most cost effective installation could and should be phased in the school districts budgets. When all aspects of a school district's budget are considered (actually the CAFR {Certified Accounting Financial Record} are far better to see where the money really went), what expenditure(s) are more sacrosanct than the safety of a child or those that educate them? P.S. CAFR's can be obtained from the school district by submitting an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) to the district. Ask for it in an electronic format, usually a pdf, as there are no reproductions cost to the requester, when done in that manner.
mrszzano March 30, 2014 at 10:52 AM
I agree, Tom, that the safety and interests of the children should be utmost on anyone's agenda. However, unfortunately financial restraints sometimes require that some projects be postponed. One can only hope that safety issues are not the ones being postponed. And even though everyone is (obviously) onboard with keeping our kids safe, when it comes time to vote on the budget, some people only see the numbers. That's why so many school buildings are crumbling, and systems are outdated. It's sad, but until money goes where it should, all we can rely on is common sense and constant vigilance on the part of the schools' staffs.

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