Trenton – Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, a champion of stricter gun laws and advocate for the health, protection and well-being of New Jersey’s schoolchildren, introduced legislation that would ensure lockdown drills take into consideration the impact these drills can have on the mental health of students, while continuing the safety preparations for students should an intruder appear at a school.
The bill, S-3726, would require that a school district planning to conduct a school security drill, including “lockdowns” or simulations, when students are present be allowed to do so only after advance written notice has been provided to staff, and parents and guardians of enrolled students in the district. It will also require that notice include clear messaging to students and staff that the event is a drill, and that no danger exists.
“The goal of so-called ‘active-shooter’ drills is to prepare students for possible lockdown and other preventative measures in the case of a real emergency. However, we need to realize that sometimes the drills themselves can cause trauma, particularly to younger students,” said Senator Weinberg, (D-Bergen).
The bill would ensure that schools are aware of and able to provide trauma-informed approaches to address student inquiries about the drills. It would also prohibit the use of fake blood, real or fake firearms, and simulations of gun shots, and ensure that drills do not require students to play victims during the simulation. The legislation would also permit emergency personnel access to the buildings and grounds of its schools for security drills scheduled outside school hours.
“We also need to make sure we are consistent in our messaging, to make sure students know the difference between a drill and a real-time event. Our students have enough stress in their lives without adding one more layer of trauma while conducting what are supposed to be informational, educational and practical “active-shooter drills,” added Senator Weinberg.
“While we need to prepare our students for the worst, we need also to continue to address the gun issue directly – especially in regard to ease of accessing firearms and the mental health issues that so often play an underlying role in the nation’s rising epidemic of gun violence.”
According to recent press reports and State Police tracking, 218 people in New Jersey died in shootings in 2020, a spike of 45% up from 2019, at least in part due to the chaos, anxiety and economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Another 1,052 New Jersey residents were wounded by gunfire.