TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators John A. Girgenti and Teresa Ruiz which would require public and private schools in the State to conduct school security drills to improve emergency preparedness was approved by the Senate today by a vote of 39-0, receiving final legislative approval.
“We live in times of national and international uncertainty, and we have to take the steps necessary to protect our children and our children’s children from the hazards of an increasingly dangerous world,” said Senator Girgenti, D-Passaic and Bergen, and Chairman of the Senate Law, Public Safety and Veterans’ Affairs Committee. “Through this legislation, we’re teaching students in New Jersey’s schools the proper course of action to keep them safe in times of crisis. This bill will hopefully go a long way to improve the safety and security of our schools should, God forbid, a real crisis take place.”
The Senators’ 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.
“The best way for New Jersey to keep our students safe is to prepare them for a possible worst-case scenario,” said Senator Ruiz, D-Essex and Union, and Vice Chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. “Since the Columbine tragedy and the September 11 attacks, New Jersey leaders have been on heightened alert against possible threats to school security, both home-grown and foreign. This bill would prepare teachers and students to practice safety and security procedures to minimize the risk in times of real danger.”
The bill now heads to the Governor to be signed into law.