Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Lagana (D-Bergen/Passaic) to create a funding source for security improvements in schools so they are better prepared in case of emergencies received approval recently from the full Assembly by a vote of 75-0-1.
“Incidents we thought could never happen in schools have happened to tragic results,” said Lagana. “When you commit a crime, you have to pay the price. Under this bill, that price would include a $10 fee so we can help our schools update their emergency response plans, safety equipment and staff training so they are better prepared to respond if they are ever faced with a disaster situation.”
The bill (A-3189) would establish a new assessment on criminal offenders to help fund school safety and security initiatives in the state. Under the bill, any person convicted of a crime would have to pay an assessment of $10 for each crime for which he or she is convicted. Any person placed in supervisory treatment pursuant to N.J.S.2C:36A-1 or N.J.S.2C:43-12 would have to pay the same fee for each crime for which they were charged. The $10 assessment would be in addition to any other disposition made by such persons pursuant to the provisions of Title 2C of the New Jersey Statutes.
All assessments provided for in the bill would be forwarded to the state Department of Education for deposit in a separate, nonlapsing fund to be known as the “School Safety and Security Fund.” The monies in this fund would be used for the development, implementation and updating of primary and secondary school emergency operations plans related to both natural and manmade disasters and other emergencies, safety and security equipment on and in school buildings, facilities, vehicles, and property, and safety and security training for full-, part-time, and volunteer school staff.
Any primary or secondary school district could apply to the Commissioner of Education for funding from the funds. The commissioner could accept, modify or reject an application based on the district’s proposal, current safety and security measures relative to that proposal, and the availability of monies from the fund and other sources to complete the proposal. Funds would be distributed periodically throughout the year based on a schedule determined by the commissioner by regulation.
“We must be proactive when it comes to the safety of our children,” added Lagana. “This small addition to the fines already levied against those who break the law can help make our schools safer.”
The bill now awaits consideration in the Senate.