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TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ronald L. Rice and Senator M. Teresa Ruiz that would require school buildings to be equipped with an emergency light and a panic alarm linked to local law enforcement today passed the Senate Education Committee.

“This legislation would put New Jersey at the vanguard of protecting our children from the type of heart-wrenching school tragedies we’ve seen in the news,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex).  “As Nelson Mandela said, ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’  Fortifying our schools’ emergency response capabilities would add more proof that New Jersey’s soul is wise and prudent and loving.”

“When we drop our kids off at school, we should feel assured that they will be safe,” said Senate Education Committee Chair M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex).  “In New Jersey, we commit ourselves to protecting our most precious state resources — our children and our teachers — with comprehensive proactive measures that include safety protocols ranging from mental health awareness to structural building improvements.  This bill would require New Jersey to implement technology that represents best practices protocol to keep our children and their educators safe.”

The bill, S-365, would require that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a panic alarm for use in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown or active shooter situation.  The panic alarm, which will not be audible within the school building, must be directly linked to law enforcement authorities and must immediately transmit a signal or message to the authorities upon activation.  The bill defines “panic alarm” as a silent security system generated by the manual activation of a device intended to signal a life-threatening or emergency situation that requires a response from law enforcement.

The bill also requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a red emergency light that is affixed to the exterior of the school building in a highly visible location above or near the front entrance visible from the nearest public roadway.  If the school building is not visible from the street, the light would be installed on the street.

The bill directs the proceeds of bonds authorized to be issued, to fund the State share of the costs of Schools Development Authority district school facilities projects, or the State share of the costs of school facilities projects in all other districts, including county vocational school districts, be used to fund the full cost of the panic alarms and emergency lights.

With today’s 5-0 vote, the bill advances to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for further consideration.