Bill prompted by incident at South Hackensack Memorial School where a teacher disconnected the loudspeaker in his third-grade classroom causing students to miss a bomb drill
(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblywoman Marlene Caride (D-Passaic/Bergen) which makes it illegal to tamper or disconnect alarms in classrooms to help ensure the safety of students and staff during emergencies was approved Thursday by the Assembly Education Committee.
The bill is in response to an incident involving an elementary school teacher in the South Hackensack School District who disconnected the loudspeaker in his classroom. As a result, the teacher and his class missed the alert during a bomb drill and did not exit the building.
“These alarms serve a real and important purpose. They can help save lives during an emergency. Tampering or disconnecting an alarm or loudspeaker puts students, staff and first responders in danger, and should not be treated lightly,” said Caride, who chairs the committee. “This can help prevent such behavior in the future by making it illegal and costly to pull such a reckless, potentially dangerous, stunt.”
Under the bill (A-4983), an employee of a public or nonpublic school who knowingly damages, disconnects, tampers, or interferes with the operation of a public or nonpublic school loudspeaker, alarm, or other emergency warning device or system will be liable for a civil penalty of $1,000 for each offense. The bill’s provisions do not apply to an approved maintenance or repair of a loudspeaker, alarm, or other emergency warning device or system; and does not preclude the application of any other civil, administrative, or criminal remedy that may be available under any other provision of law.
“Luckily, the incident at South Hackensack Memorial School was just a drill, and the students and the teacher were not hurt, but what if the threat had been real?” asked Caride. “The inconvenience of having to listen to an alarm is miniscule compared to the graveness of having students and teachers unaware of an emergency that requires immediate evacuation.”
The bill would take effect immediately.