Rice, Ruiz Bill To Require School Lights, Panic Alarms Linked To Local Law Enforcement Passes Senate

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 cleared the Senate.

“The trust that our children have in us, the adults who protect them, is a sacred bond that is worth every measure of effort, to whatever length is required.  Fortifying our schools’ emergency response capabilities is a small endeavor compared to the value of our children,” said Senator Rice (D-Essex).  “This legislation will propel New Jersey into the forefront of states that are harnessing the power of technology to protect our schools from the type of heart-wrenching tragedies we’ve seen in the news.  But more than that, but it will help fulfill our responsibility to the children that we hold so dear.”

“Gun violence is a public health crisis which has affected many of our communities for far too long,” said Senate Education Committee Chair M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex). “We must do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our children and their teachers. School should not be a dangerous place. We must be proactive when it comes to improving the systems in place 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, lock down 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 38-1 vote, the bill cleared the Senate.