TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Kristin Corrado, which would improve school security, was released from the Senate Education Committee.
“School safety is a complex issue and it requires a holistic approach to ensure our children are safe and secure in their learning environments,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “We must not only consider our physical spaces but also the mental health of our students and the training of those staffing our schools. This legislation will address multiple aspects of school security while also ensuring we remain vigilant as this continues to be an ongoing effort.”
The first bill, S-2742, would require that prior to a student’s suspension or expulsion, they meet with the principal and a trained mental health professional. The meeting would identify any behavioral or health difficulties and provide resources that may help address those difficulties. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 6-0.
“Problems at school could be the warning sign that a child is struggling with mental health issues,” said Senator Corrado (R-Bergen, Essex, Morris and Passaic). “We need to prioritize the psychological health and well-being of our students, and guarantee they have a safe and secure school facility to learn and grow in. Safeguarding our school grounds through an annual comprehensive security checklist, together with annual safety training for any and all teachers and faculty, including substitutes, is paramount to ensuring the entire school community is safe.”
The second bill, S-2744, would require school districts to perform an annual security audit to assess the security features and security vulnerabilities of a school district’s buildings and grounds. The audit would be confidential, but could be used for allocating relevant state grants or loans. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 6-0.
The final bill, S-2745, would require that substitutes and volunteers of youth programs operated in school buildings are provided with safety and security training. The bill was released from committee by a vote of 6-0.
The bills are part of a larger school safety and security package that came out of a series of joint hearings held last year.