In an effort to prevent New Jersey’s students from enduring traumatic school security drills, Assembly Democrats Pamela Lampitt, Louis Greenwald and Ralph Caputo sponsor a measure to require school districts to consider students’ mental well-being when planning such drills. The Assembly Judiciary Committee advanced the bill on Monday.
Under the bill (A-5727), at the conclusion of a security drill with students present, school districts would be required to provide students and staff with clear, developmentally and age-appropriate messaging to assure them that the event was just a drill and that no danger existed. Following the drill, school districts would also have to provide written notice to parents and guardians informing them that the event had occurred to prepare them for any questions or concerns their children may have pertaining to the drill.
“While it is important to prepare our students for worst-case scenarios, it is just as important to ensure that security drills do not expose them to unnecessary trauma,” said Assemblywoman Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington). “Studies show that active shooter drills can cause increases in depression, stress, anxiety and physiological health problems. Our schools must be a place where students feel safe and ready to learn, but security drills that result in student trauma have the opposite effect.”
Under the bill, security drills would have to be accessible for all students and could not include inappropriate content or imaging. Districts would have to be prepared with trauma-informed approaches to address students’ questions or concerns related to security drills. The bill would also prohibit students from playing victims during a drill and ban the use of props such as fake blood, real or fake firearms, and simulated gunshots or explosions.
“Security drills do not have to mimic many students’ biggest fear in order to be effective,” said Assemblyman Greenwald (D-Camden, Burlington). “We can make sure our students know what to do during real security events by providing them with proper resources and using less-intense security drills instead of relying on damaging scare tactics.”
School districts would be required to track data on security drills and submit a report on their findings to the Commissioner of Education annually. They would also have to collect input from emergency personnel, parents and guardians, teachers and staff, mental health professionals and student government representatives to review and update their school security drill procedures.
“Being a student is stressful enough without the looming threat of school shootings,” said Assemblyman Caputo (D-Essex). “Adding to that with deceptively realistic active-shooter drills and other intense lockdown drills is a disservice to New Jersey’s students. With this bill, we can protect our students from unnecessary trauma.”
The bill now heads to the Speaker for further consideration.