TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator John A. Girgenti which would require public and private schools in the State to conduct school security drills to improve emergency preparedness was approved by the Senate Education Committee today by a vote of 3-0.
“Unfortunately, we live in very dangerous times, and schools need to be prepared for a wide range of threats to students’ safety,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, and Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “In a crisis situation, the first few moments could mean the difference between life and death. Teachers and students must practice the proper response to various potential dangers – just as they do in fire drills – to protect themselves and ensure a safe outcome for everyone.”
The Senator’s bill, S-2518, would require public and nonpublic schools to conduct at least one monthly school security drill, in addition to a monthly fire drill, in order to improve emergency preparedness in schools. A school security drill is specifically intended as an exercise to practice procedures to safely respond to an emergency situation such as a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. For the purposes of school security drills, the current law would be amended to allow public school teachers to lock doors and exits during a simulated emergency lockdown drill.
Current law requires public schools to conduct two fire drills each month.
The bill would also require the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, in consultation with the Commissioner of Education, the Attorney General, the Director of the Division of Fire Safety in the Department of Community Affairs and the Director of the State Office of Emergency Management in the State Police to develop and disseminate training curriculum to each school district and nonpublic school in order to assist them in implementing school security drills. Each local board of education or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school would be responsible for ensuring that all of their full-time teaching staff members are provided with school safety training and instruction on the implementation of school security drills.
“We need to develop a comprehensive, accessible response to the potential crises which could happen in our schools,” said Senator Girgenti. “As we’ve seen with the success of fire drills, the best way to train both staff and students in the appropriate course of action in an emergency is through practice. School security drills will become an invaluable tool in keeping our kids safe and prepared for the possible dangers which are becoming far too common in our world today.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.