New Jersey’s school districts have long had strong and effective security measures in place. Even before the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012, for example, New Jersey was one of only 10 states that required periodic security drills throughout the school year. It also required crisis plans in each district, as well as agreements between school districts and local law enforcement agencies.
Since then, schools have continued to institute additional procedures and security upgrades. To get an idea of what districts have done – from large districts to small, rural to urban – NJSBA conducted an informal poll through its online School Board Notes. We asked districts what measures they had taken in the past few years to increase safety and security in their schools. We selected some comments and included them below; some responses have been edited for clarity and space. Note that these are not a comprehensive listing of all measures taken in any district; simply a sampling of strategies.
Security measures taken are as follows:
- We installed cameras inside and outside of the schools, hired resource officers, and the schools routinely hold active shooter drills. Salem City Schools
- We hired armed security; have a visitor management system; installed cameras and 3M film on windows; secured all doors during the day; and only allow people to enter and exit the building through the main door. Even staff has to be buzzed in when school is in session. We put magnets on classroom doors to keep them locked all day long, and put in new window shades for easy access, to pull them down during drills. Fairfield (Essex County)
- We added security personnel , as well as entry vestibules that restrict visitors to an area until credentials can be verified and assessed. In addition, we have our security cameras throughout the district. Colts Neck Township schools
- We installed a lockdown emergency notification system, which has strobes inside and outside of buildings, lighted marquees, and public announcement speakers/horns inside and outside areas of school grounds. The system can simultaneously notify everyone in and on school grounds of an emergency, as well as police and emergency responders. We upgraded the entire district with a HD-CCTV surveillance system, accessible by secured IP address. The system can be viewed by police and other designated personnel. We increased security personnel and developed a special-event security staff comprised of retired law enforcement and emergency personnel. We installed a Stanley Pak swipe card access system throughout the district to more securely manage and control accessibility at all buildings. The district implemented and installed a visitor pass system that does a check of all visitors through the national sex offenders registry and prints a photo guest pass. The system also keeps a record of all visitors. We have a uniformed school security resource officer assigned to each school throughout the entire day, as well as a visible marked patrol unit parked at each school. Warren Hills Regional School District
- We hired a supervisor of security, and retired police officers as security officers and board of education employees; installed a centralized camera system, a computerized visitor system, and a card access system in every building. We keep all exterior doors locked; issue vehicle ID to staff to identify personal vehicles; and encourage staff to confront visitors to ensure visitors are authorized. We have updated emergency procedures, and installed a new phone system which permits staff to call 911 from any location Fort Lee School District
- We reinstated a part-time school resource officer; instituted use of the Stop-It app; studied the upgrade of security cameras and infrastructure. Lumberton Schools
- We added more security cameras and school security personnel (retired law enforcement officers); secured vestibules; installed window film; revised vehicle traffic flow patterns and increased screening of visitors. By law, our security drills have increased and we have dedicated more security training resources to our staff by both law enforcement and administrative personnel. Manchester Township (Ocean County) Schools
- Added a full-time director of security; increased part-time security staff; installed cameras; instituted anonymous reporting system “Stop-it.” North Plainfield Schools
- Last year, state evaluators came in to assess our security measures. Based on this assessment we implemented such procedures as taped areas in classrooms so students could easily move to secure locations and not be visible during lockdowns. In this area we included food and emergency supplies, a movable knapsack with rosters and directions for lockdown and evacuation, and a flipchart. Door windows were equipped with velcroed release window covers so all windows could quickly be covered and look the same. Teachers’ rooms are locked now with secure coded entry. Each school has a secure vestibule for entry. We implemented a badge entry scan system. We improved our lockdown announcements with codes for personnel to understand if it is truly an “all clear” announcement. We budgeted for lock gates to secure sections of the schools during after-hours events. We installed additional security cameras that are linked to the police department surveillance. We invited the assessment team back in May to review our improvements and conduct a training for the entire faculty. Mountainside Schools
- We added bullet-resistant glass to all exterior doors and main office; installed a “man trap” type area in our main entrance way; instituted a computer-based visitor check-in system with photo identification. We have a panic button system which transmits to local police department radio directly, and finally, we have a very active safety and security committee that meets regularly with school stakeholders, local and county police department, fire, and emergency personnel. Cape May City Board of Education
- We have panic alarms; interior/exterior cameras; exterior alarms and strobes; window film; interior/exterior door/window numbering; signage; electronic door access; permit parking; photo IDs; visitors accountability; safety vestibules; heightened sensitivity to surroundings through drills; speed humps; increased maintenance of exterior lighting; school resource officers at middle and high schools; distribution of door “hold opens” to avoid dealing with keys when in lock-down; everyone is involved as “fresh eyes” approach…who belongs and who does not. Monroe School District
- After the Sandy Hook tragedy, we added one police officer in each school building during school hours. Central Regional School District