TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Senator Kristin Corrado, which would improve school security, passed the Senate today.
“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 our school staff. This legislation will address multiple aspects of school security while also ensuring we remain vigilant and continue to examine what more can be done to protect our children.”
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 the Senate by a vote of 39-0.
“Addressing the mental health needs of our students requires an all-encompassing approach,” said Senator Corrado (R-Bergen/Essex/Morris/Passaic). “Not only must we make certain that schools have the proper resources to best help children who are internally struggling, we must first and foremost guarantee that all students have a safe and secure school facility to learn and grow in. Protecting New Jersey’s students though an annual comprehensive security checklist of all school grounds, jointly with an annual safety training for all teachers and faculty, including substitutes, will help us ensure the entire school community is kept safe.”
The second bill, S-2744, would require public and private schools 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 the Senate by a vote of 40-0.
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 the Senate by a vote of 39-0.
The bills are part of a larger school safety and security package that came out of a series of joint hearings held last year.