Wilson, Johnson, Wagner, Lampitt, Wimberly, Quijano & Riley are sponsoring the bill
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Gilbert “Whip” L. Wilson, Gordon Johnson, Connie Wagner, Pamela R. Lampitt, Benjie E. Wimberly, Annette Quijano and Celeste Riley to create a task force charged with making recommendations to improve security and makes schools safer received final legislative approval Monday and now heads to the governor’s desk.
“The Newtown shooting showed us that evil can strike anywhere, even in a school filled with small, defenseless children,” said Wilson (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This bill helps ensure a safer learning environment for students and staff members by creating a special task force charged with developing strategies to help address school safety issues and hopefully prevent another tragedy.”
“It is heartbreaking that parents must now worry about the possibility of a violent attack when they send their children off to school,” said Johnson (D-Bergen). “The Newtown shooting made it terrifyingly clear that a deranged individual has no limits. Identifying security flaws and implementing proven security measures to make our schools safer must be part of any effort to curb gun violence.”
“We send our children to school with the expectation that they will be safe. What transpired at Sandy Hook Elementary School was horrific. Several of the mass shootings in this country have taken place in school settings,” said Wagner (D-Bergen). “We must ensure our schools are equipped with the proper safety precautions to help prevent and minimize potential threats against students and staff.”
The bill is part of the Assembly Democratic gun violence prevention package.
The bill (A3583-1613) establishes an 11-member School Security Task Force to study and develop recommendations for improving school security and safety, and ensuring a safe learning environment for students and school employees. The task force is to be comprised of: the Commissioner of Education, the Director of the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the Chief Executive Officer of the New Jersey Schools Development Authority, or their designees; four members appointed by the Governor, as recommended by the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials, the New Jersey Education Association, the New Jersey School Boards Association, and the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association; and four members of the public who include two members appointed by the Governor with demonstrated expertise in the development or implementation of school security standards or technology, one member appointed by the President of the Senate, and one member appointed by the Speaker of the General Assembly.
“The pain of the families affected by the Newtown tragedy is felt by all of us. No parent should have to experience what they have gone and continue to go through,” said Lampitt (D-Burlington/Camden). “We may not be able to stop a disturbed individual intent on hurting others, but we can better equip our schools with proven security measures to help fend off a violent attack.”
“Any semblance of complacency was shattered when that madman decided to target the children of Sandy Hook Elementary School,” said Wimberly (D-Bergen/Passaic) “It is imperative that we take the necessary precautions to protect our children. This task force would determine what the best options are and which ones would be the most suitable for implementation in our schools.”
“Since Newtown, there have been numerous recommendations, some better than others, as to how to best protect our schools against such an attack,” said Quijano (D-Union). “This group would be charged with finding the security defects that make our schools vulnerable and recommending the best ways to make them safer. The safety of our children cannot be left up to chance.”
“It is a harsh reality, but we can no longer take for granted the safety of our children at school. What we can do is make school security better,” said Riley (D-Cumberland/Gloucester/Salem). “Tragedies like Newtown and Columbine demand that we take enhanced safety precautions in order to prevent, or at the very least give students and school staff a better chance of surviving an attack.”
The task force is charged with identifying physical and cyber vulnerabilities and potential breaches of security in the public schools, and making appropriate recommendations to improve school security. The task force will study issues including, but not limited to:
- placing screening systems at school entrances;
- stationing police officers in each school building;
- improving response times to emergency situations including lockdowns, active shooter, and bomb threats;
- requiring advanced student and visitor identification cards;
- using biometric, retina, or other advanced recognition systems for authorized entrance into school buildings;
- installing panic alarms in school buildings to alert local law enforcement authorities to emergency situations;
- securing computer networks to prevent cyber attacks;
- scheduling periodic patrols of school buildings and grounds by local law enforcement officers; and
- hardening the school perimeter and building entryways.
The task force will also examine building security and assessment standards for existing school facilities and new construction. In developing its recommendations, the task force would have to consider effective strategies that have been employed in other states; refer to and incorporate existing state research, data, recommendations and standards and solicit public input. The task force is required to issue a final report to the governor, the Legislature, and the State Board of Education within six months of its organizational meeting. The report is to contain its findings and determinations, including any recommendations for legislation or regulations that it deems appropriate. The bill would take effect immediately and the task force would expire upon the issuance of the task force final report.
The bill was approved 78-0 by the Assembly and 38-0 by the Senate last week.