Governor Signs Several School Safety Measures Into Law

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Gov. Chris Christie signed two school safety bills December 5.  One bill requires schools to conduct annual security training alongside first-responders, the second ensures that future school architectural plans feature certain security measures.

Training with First Responders

Public law 2016, c.79 (A-3349 / S-2438 (Diegnan)) revises the current law on school security drills to include all employees within a school district in training, not just certificated employees.  It also requires that training be conducted collaboratively with emergency responders in order to identify weaknesses in school safety and security procedures and to increase the effectiveness of emergency responders.  To effectuate this, the law requires that a law enforcement officer be present at a minimum of at least one school security drill in each school year in order to make recommendations on any improvements or changes to school security drill procedures that the officer may deem advisable.

The law also specifies that if an actual fire or school security emergency occurs at a school during a month and the incident includes activities which are the equivalent of a drill, that emergency will be considered a drill for the purposes of meeting the required number of monthly drills.  The law implements recommendations of the 2015 report of the New Jersey School Security Task Force.

Security Measures In School Architecture

This new law, P.L.2016, c.80 (A-3348 / S-2439 (Diegnan)), requires that where new school construction is undertaken by a school district or the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, in addition to the Best Practices Standards for Schools Under Construction or Being Planned for Construction set forth by the Department of Community Affairs, the district or authority, as applicable, must provide for certain school security construction standards in the architectural design for the new construction.

These school construction standards include among others, standards in regard to the selection of a building site with adequate space to accommodate bus and vehicular traffic separately, separate vehicular drop-off/pick-up areas, marked school entrances with a uniform numbering system, keyless locking mechanisms, access control systems which allow for remote locking and unlocking, sufficient space for evacuation in the event of an emergency, and areas in the school building intended for public use separated and secure from all other areas.

The new law also provides that in the case of new school construction undertaken by a school district or the development authority, and in the case of existing school buildings, the district or the authority, as applicable, in addition to employing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles, must employ certain school security standards.  These standards include among others, that school security personnel be in uniform, the number of doors for access by school staff be limited, exterior doors remain locked, secure vestibules at the school’s main entrance be created, surveillance cameras be used as a target-hardening tool, and a strict key distribution protocol be developed.

Both bills come out of recommendations within the July 2015 report of the New Jersey School Security Task Force.  They are both effective the beginning of the next school year.