Who Keeps Students and Staff Safe at Asbury Park? A Behind-the-Scenes Look at What Parents Don’t Know.

Thursday’s post described an incident where a student brought a loaded gun into school, despite the presence of metal detectors. In the aftermath, Principal Kathy Baumgartner was suspended with pay, pending an investigation (more information on this tomorrow) and the student was charged by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office for “unlawful possession of a weapon and weapon possession at education institutions.”

In that post I said, based on the information available at the time, that Superintendent Sancha Gray (hand-picked by then-Asbury Superintendent/current Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet) was not available to assist. Since then I’ve been told that she didn’t actually file an incident report until 3:00, many hours after she was notified. 

Gray told the Asbury Park Press:

As you know, we consider the health, safety and welfare of our students and staff to be our top priority and there is zero tolerance for weapons in our school….While the matter is currently under investigation by law enforcement, there is no threat to students or staff at this time.

I have a feeling those who learn in and work at Asbury Park High School would beg to differ. 

Here’s how students sneak guns and knives into the building.  This information comes from three staff members, who will remain anonymous.

The only metal detectors are located at the main entrance of the high school, which is how all students and staff are supposed to enter and leave. But it’s really easy to evade the detectors. For example, one source told me, a student can place a weapon in one of the bushes by the side entrances, walk through the main door, proceed to a side door, prop it open with a pencil, and retrieve the weapon. “The side doors aren’t monitored,” explained the source. In fact, teachers will sometimes prop them open to get something from their cars. This source said, “I have personally seen students with knives at the high school…and I’ve found that lots of students have them for protection” as they walk back and forth from school. 

Another source told me that “kids can open the first floor windows and someone can hand them a gun from outside.” Also, sometimes when students are outside for physical education classes, they pick up weapons they’ve stashed on their way back in.

District policy is that all people who enter the building, including students and staff, must go through security clearance. From the district website:

A driver’s license, or government issued ID card, will be required for entrance into our buildings. At the front entrance a scanning device (metal detector) has been installed which scans persons for weapons. All parents, guests, and visitors will be asked to exchange ID with the security officer at the entry desk at which time they will issue you a visitors pass. Your ID will be returned when you are ready to leave the building.

But this procedure isn’t followed. Staff members told me they “walk right through,” bypassing the metal detector and any search. I also heard that security guards favor “insiders,” i.e., those from Asbury Park, especially the West Side, and sometimes when teachers call for assistance, security guards don’t respond. One teacher told me that when they complained, the guard blamed a lack of classroom management skills. “It’s upside-down in there,” this teacher said.

Another time students were damaging equipment in a classroom. The teacher called security and, when they didn’t respond, resorted to calling the police. Another source said that last year a student left school through the (unmonitored and unlocked) side door. He was shot on his way home. (There may be litigation pending — not sure on this.)

So, who exactly is in charge of security, not just at the high school but throughout the district? That would be Security Manager Louis Jordan.

Jordan has quite a history. According to what one staff member called his “self-adulation website”: 

L. Louis Jordan and his team of expert trainers has risen to national prominence by providing powerful and life-changing professional motivational keynotes and seminar presentations to businesses, communities, schools, educators, youth groups, grassroots organizations, religious groups, special interest groups nationwide and oversees. CSI have always engages, entertains, challenges and creates a memorable experience that inspire crowds.

L. Louis Jordan is not just a keynote speaker. He’s also known as the corporate, business, Community, Educational and Youth motivational speaker that inspires greatness in every arena. Professionals, managers, supervisors, youth, law enforcement, religious organizations as well as the front line employees in the workplace have all become better at what they do by applying Lou’s ideas and strategies.

Also:

Mr. Jordan worked with the U.S. Secret Services, and Interpol, protecting high-ranking Personnel from around the world, as well as the Honorable President Richard M. Nixon during his European tour in 1974. Based on that assignment, Mr. Jordan received the Presidential Award.

(I was unable to find any record of Jordan receiving a “Presidential Award.”)

And:

While in the Military, he was with the United States Armed Special Forces and Support Command of the Military Police (Black Beret), where his duties included safeguarding nuclear weapons in high security areas and supervising high ranking dignitaries of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

(I was unable to find any record of this. Then again, this would have been 48 years ago, according to his self-reported resume.) 

Here’s what I was able to find. Jordan used to be Director of the Asbury Park Police Department, which is a civilian job. In 2005, he sued the state to allow him to carry out “law enforcement duties” — police directors are not actually cops — and he lost. According to a New York Times article, in 2007 he left that position “after months of turmoil within the department.” 

“We went from the worst to the best,” said Detective Gene Dello, the department’s top union representative, referring to the Jordan reign and [new Asbury Park Police Chief Mark] Kinmon promotion. “Prior, we had a problem with abuse of sick time. Now, the officers are not only coming to work, they’re working extra.”

Jordan was also accused of a kind of reverse-racism (hints of his approach towards monitoring security at Asbury Park High School). In 2005, three Asbury Park police officers, all of whom were eligible to be promoted to sergeant, filed suit because they said Jordan wouldn’t promote white officers. “Jordan stated that he ‘wanted to hire the brothers,’ according to the lawsuit.” The officers alleged that “Jordan also threatened to remove two white lieutenants from their positions because they were part of the ‘good old boy network,’ and that he said he would ‘skip over any white officers’ when making promotions to captain.”

According to a news report at the time:

During his tenure in Asbury Park, Jordan was the subject of two legal actions: One stripped him of his police powers he had been exercising by making traffic stops and the other accused him of being racist because he had overlooked white officers for promotions in favor of black officers.

Reidy said the city settled the lawsuit in favor of the white officers, who received financial compensation and promotions. He said the city replaced Jordan by promoting from within the department.

“I’m not convinced a police director is the right fit for this city, and nor did I think Lou Jordan was the right fit for Asbury,” City Manager Terence J. Reidy said.

Although Jordan said he decided on his own it was time to retire from Asbury, Reidy said he decided not to renew Jordan’s contract.

In 2007, a year after Jordan retired/was not renewed as Police Director of Asbury Park, he lost his gun. It was later found at a commuter parking lot. Jordan “could not be reached for comment.”

I’m not sure what year Jordan was hired as a part-time security guard at Asbury Park, but he started off at $20,000 a year. Now he runs the whole district’s security department. When Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet was Asbury Park Superintendent and engineered a shady trip (paid for by a federal funding stream intended for enrichment for low-income students) to Ghana, Jordan was on the guest list. Here he is, in the third row on the far left with the black and gold hat and shirt.

Remember, the Ghana trip was billed as an enrichment experience for Asbury Park students. Instead, Repollet invited members of his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma, and members of the “Divine 9,” a group of sororities connected with Phi Beta Sigma. (Currently, membership confers privilege if you’re looking for a job at the NJ Department of Education.) How did Jordan get an invite to Ghana? He didn’t go to college so he wasn’t a fraternity brother. Did Repollet need a bodyguard?

Who knows. So many unanswered questions. I’ll keep digging.

What do you think?

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