On Thursday, April 7, the full Assembly met for a voting session and gave approval to several bills aimed at increasing school safety and security. Those measures include:
- A-191 requires school buildings to be equipped with an emergency light and panic alarm that is linked to local law enforcement. NJSBA supports this legislation, which was carried over from the last session and includes the Association’s recommended amendments.
- A-209 excludes certain increases in school security expenditures from the tax levy cap applicable to school districts. NJSBA supports this bill.
- A-2158 authorizes the use of an emergency reserve fund or proceeds from bonds issued by the Economic Development Agency to finance school security improvements. NJSBA supports this proposal.
- A-2689, the “Secure Schools for All Children Act,” establishes a state aid program for security services, equipment or technology to ensure a safe and secure school environment for nonpublic school students. NJSBA believes that A-2689 would divert already scarce public resources to private schools. Additionally, this legislation would unduly burden certain school districts with bureaucratic responsibilities simply because private schools operate within their borders. The superintendent of the public school district, as well as his or her support staff, is already overburdened with the duties of serving the district in which they were hired. They should not have the additional burden of dealing with private schools and the associated liability thrust upon them. NJSBA opposes this measure.
- A-3347 establishes the New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy within the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The purpose of the academy will be to serve as a repository for best practices, training standards, and compliance oversight in matters regarding school safety and security. Under the bill, the academy will develop and implement a School Safety Specialist Certification Program. Each school superintendent will be required to designate a school safety specialist who must complete the certification program. The school safety specialist will be responsible for the supervision and oversight of all school safety and security personnel, policies, and procedures in the school district; ensure that these policies and procedures are in compliance with state law and regulations; and provide the necessary training and resources to school district staff in matters relating to school safety and security. The school safety specialist will also serve as the school district liaison with local law enforcement and other agencies and organizations in matters of school safety and security. The NJSBA supports the legislation. During the committee process, the NJSBA successfully obtained amendments clarifying that the certification program and any related training and professional development will be provided free of charge to designated school safety specialists. The bill would codify the first recommendation of the New Jersey School Security Task Force, which released its final report in July 2015. The legislation would become effective 180 days following enactment.
- A-3348 requires certain school security measures to be incorporated in the architectural design of new school construction and certain school security measures for existing buildings. This bill also implements recommendations of the New Jersey School Security Task Force. NJSBA supports this bill.
- A-3349 would implement various recommendations of the New Jersey School Security Task Force related to school security drills. First, it provides that an actual fire or school security emergency will be considered a “drill” for the purposes of meeting the requirements of the School Security Drill Law. Second, it requires a law enforcement officer to be present for at least one drill each school year so he or she can make recommendations for improvements or changes. Third, it expands the definition of “school security drill” to include practice procedures for responding to a bomb threat. It also provides that all school district employees will be provided with annual training on school safety and security. Current law stipulates that such training is only provided once to teaching staff members. In addition, the bill requires annual training to be conducted collaboratively with emergency responders in order to identify weaknesses in school security policies and procedures while increasing the effectiveness of emergency responders. The NJSBA supports the measure, which would go into effect in the first full school year following enactment.
These bills now head to the Senate for additional consideration.