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NBC Reporter Gains Access To Livingston School In Surprise Test Of Security Procedures

'I think it just took everyone by shock,' said Superintendent John Alfieri.

The vulnerability of a Livingston school’s security measures was unexpectedly put to the test last week by an unknown man who later identified himself to be an NBC news reporter, according to school officials.

The unknown man rang the buzzer at the main entrance of Mount Pleasant Middle School on Thursday, Dec. 5, and was permitted to enter the building, Superintendent John Alfieri said. Instead of checking in at the main office, which all visitors are required to do, the man attempted to continue walking through the school's hallways. 

When the office secretary saw what was happening, she stopped and questioned the man who was carrying a camera in the shape of a coffee mug. 

“Immediately one of our secretaries jumped up and caught him,” Alfieri said. 

Click here to see what other Essex County school was included in the test that did not perform as well as Livingston.

When the man was questioned, he identified himself as a NBC reporter for the "Today Show" and requested a meeting with the principal. He also provided the school with his driver’s license and contact information.   

The reporter was testing the Livingston school’s security measures and procedures for story in relation to the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where 20 school children and to six adults staff members were killed on Dec. 14, 2012.

Additional schools in New Jersey were also tested for the story, according to the district. 

While an NBC producer informed the district that Mount Pleasant Middle School’s staff did everything right in regards to its security procedures, Alfieri did not seem pleased that Livingston was used as a guinea pig for the story.

“I’m very proud of how they [the school’s staff] handled it and very proud of how [the staff] acted, I think it just took everyone by shock,” said Alfieri. 

“I’m not sure why NBC felt the need to do this. I understand they are trying to do a piece in relation to Sandy Hook’s one-year anniversary, but this just isn’t the piece I was looking for.”

Alfieri added that he was not informed how a Livingston school was chosen for the story.

NBC did not respond to calls for this story.    

The episode may have a positive effect on the district, however. Alfieri said the district will look to develop tighter security procedures in the coming weeks in all its schools. The superintendent said these might include specific questions schools will ask visitors before they are allowed to access the building.

“We are proud of our procedures but I’d like to tighten them up even further because I don’t even want that man getting in the building,” said Alfieri. “… We are going to continue to go back and look at those procedures and make sure they are even tighter next time.” 

Karen Scott December 10, 2013 at 04:03 PM
Mr. D'Onofrio - Which school was entered? MPE or MPMS? The article references both?
wetochwink December 10, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Wow...just after a school wide newletter on assuring parents on school safety just before the first anniversary of Newtown, CT shootings.
Mike D'Onofrio (Editor) December 10, 2013 at 04:15 PM
@ Karen Scott: It happened at Mount Pleasant Middle School. Thank you for informing me of the confusion in the story. I made the change. -- MCD
L.Z. December 10, 2013 at 04:16 PM
I think these "spot checks" are great and need to happen more often. Thank G-d this man was a reporter and nothing worse. This man should of never gotten into the building! I am a parent of a child at another elementary school here in Livingston and although the security procedures are in place, it is the office staff which needs to enforce these procedures and make sure they are effective.
lori December 10, 2013 at 04:56 PM
This is incredibly scary! The reporter should have never been allowed to come into the school. Yes, the secretary reacted but what if he was armed? No one should be allowed acces into the school without identification. If the person is new or unknown, they shouldn't be allowed to step foot into the school, even if protocol requires them to go to the office first. A deranged person only needs that initial access. Extremely scary situation and I hope that we can improve security measures. Livingston is a great community with great schools. However, our childrens' safety comes first.
lori December 10, 2013 at 04:58 PM
Also, parents need to follow these protocols even if they are known in the school. Some parents get upset or offended but they need to get over it. Safety first!
Bob December 11, 2013 at 07:58 AM
I just saw this on the Today Show. Reporter Jeff Rossen was allowed to freely enter the building unchallenged. Only after he walked the halls for a little over 2 minutes was he approached when he finally found the office and after he stuck his head into a classroom with a teacher and students to ask directions. How many children could be shot in 2 minutes if he were a deranged person? How does Superintendent Alfieri think security worked well here? He needs to wake up and take some action, especially now that the world knows how easy this was for an intruder. Our Police Chief needs to put a plan in place and ensure the schools follow it by making random surprise checks by the Police.
L.Z. December 11, 2013 at 08:48 AM
The school he entered on the piece was not a Livingston school, it was in Maplewood. That Principal had an immediate parent/school meeting to involve parents on how to change the security procedures and in one week they have changed. Why were we in Livingston not informed of this? Why do we find out only when The Patch breaks the news? You are correct, how does anyone in our Schools think security worked well in Livingston as he was able to enter the building! NOT ACCEPTABLE!
Mike D'Onofrio (Editor) December 11, 2013 at 10:48 AM
I was talking with the Maplewood Patch editor today and an NBC reporter also walked into a school in that district. You can read the entire story here: http://maplewood.patch.com/groups/schools/p/nbc-reporter-instigates-school-safety-controversy -- MCD
Dave December 11, 2013 at 04:13 PM
What gives NBC the right to be the universal "tester" of school security? The reporter and producer should have been arrested on the spot.
drareg December 11, 2013 at 04:15 PM
Complacency at its best, this school should be so ashamed of itself to wait until this man was half way down a hallway and then have a secretary run after him Alfieri thinks this is a great job? what a shame, and he look at tightening security?? what about look for another job bozo! Livingston schools are not safe this was nbc point, that secretary would have not stopped anyone or thing at all period
Bob December 11, 2013 at 05:43 PM
School security should NOT be left up to school administrators and teachers. Police departments for each individual school district should devise a plan and dictate that plan to school officials and require them to follow it to the letter. Police should then do their own spot checks to test the system rather than wait for reporters to do it. If during police random spot checks it is found that schools or individuals are out of compliance, serious repercussions should follow. Let educators educate and let Police handle the security aspect. In this way skill sets are utilized professionally and most effectively on both ends. Wake people! This is simple common sense. Are we waiting for another disaster?
drareg December 11, 2013 at 08:16 PM
bob this is a very good point, why is it that this is not being followed? I could also say to you that the protection of the children is all of our problem not just police. that what happened here in this incident is proof we are all living the "old way" of living here in this town...things are so much different and we live 15 minutes away from cities filled with crime and murder on a daily basis..
L.Z. December 11, 2013 at 08:55 PM
Yes, all procedures need to be followed by everyone and it takes a town wide effort to make our schools safe. All parties involved, including parents, need to take this as a huge wake up! Parents cannot get offended if asked who and why they are there. School administrators, custodians, and all personnel MUST follow the rules in place for security to be effective.
john December 11, 2013 at 09:17 PM
the way rossen chose livingston schools was easy! he lives in livingston!
Dave December 11, 2013 at 10:05 PM
Rossen should be arrested for trespassing, it's not his job to do random testing of the schools. I have three kids in the schools....they have a much greater chance of getting hurt or worse on the drive to school than they do by some random psychopath getting in the schools with a gun. If we are so worried about this threat, place an armed guard or police officer at the main entrance of every school, but be prepared for your taxes to go up quite a bit. We cannot put the kids in a bubble and protect them. Our new super does not need this distraction that NBC unilaterally decided to give him.
Bob December 11, 2013 at 10:49 PM
Wow Dave what an incredibly naive comment. This is not a distraction, it is one of the Super's duties and responsibilities. I'm sure most of the folks in the small towns where these disasters occurred in the last few years also felt that it couldn't happen in their wonderful little towns. Distraction? LOL! I'm sure the new Super is capable of multi tasking and establishing priorities. Our children's AND teachers safety should be number one on that priority list!
Dave December 11, 2013 at 10:52 PM
Well Bob if I am naive you are paranoid. I agree, the Super can multitask and do his job. Frankly I resent the idiots at NBC trespassing in our schools - or attempting to trespass, whatever. The Super can handle the job without NBC's help. And if safety is so important, like I said, let's put an armed guard or cop at the door and pay the tax increase with a smile.
Bob December 11, 2013 at 11:31 PM
LOL. Incredible!
L.Z. December 12, 2013 at 06:35 AM
Wow Dave I think you are the one living in the bubble!
drareg December 12, 2013 at 06:54 AM
seems in livingtson the closer to you got to administration people principle etc, then they had security, NOT children. why not take a simple solution from this report? two doors with locks, just like a computer, once you pass security or have been checked in, you can move into the next area where children are, but another door locked for yet another screening...very simple
HMJB1999 December 12, 2013 at 10:01 AM
If you all think you could do a better job, then get your degree in administration, get your doctorate in education and put Superintendent Alfieri to the test. He's certainly going to develop tighter procedures and policies in security. And it's not on his shoulders alone….the police need to be involved as well. BOB, the article clearly states: "an NBC producer informed the district that Mount Pleasant Middle School’s staff did everything right in regards to its security procedures", so obviously Mt. Pleasant WAS NOT the school where Rossen was allowed to roam for two minutes without being questioned. Get your facts straight!!!
Bob December 12, 2013 at 11:29 AM
Yes that was cleared up by L.Z. Many posts ago. Thank you Mr. Alfieri for finally catching up, and for your intelligent post about having the police get involved. Somehow that also sounds familiar! LOL !!!
HMJB1999 December 12, 2013 at 12:14 PM
Yeah, um, this is NOT Superintendent Alfieri....but thank you for the compliment.
Quincy A. Wagstaff December 27, 2013 at 10:57 PM
Alfieri should be fired immediately if he really believes this was a good job (maybe a "heckuva job" New Orleans style?). Is he protecting his image ahead of the children? How dare he deflect attention to the reporter. How did we get this moron? More importantly, how do we get rid of him ASAP?! Quin

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