Legislation Assembly Democrats Jamel Holley, Mila Jasey and Angela McKnight sponsored to enhance security in New Jersey’s schools and better protect students and teachers from potential threats was advanced Thursday by a Senate committee.
“We’ve learned some hard lessons over the years about the dangers facing our schools and our students,” said Holley (D-Union). “It is critical that we educate school staff about the best safety practices. Investing in the safety of our students and school staff is a must.”
“The prevalence of school shootings in this country has made it abundantly clear that schools need to be prepared to respond to safety threats that were unimaginable in the past,” said Jasey (D-Essex/Morris). “We owe it to students and the staff charged with their safety to give them the resources needed to protect themselves if they are ever faced with a life-threatening emergency.”
“Every student and staff member should feel safe in a school setting,” said McKnight (D-Hudson). “Making safety an integral part of the training for school administrators can help better protect schools from indiscriminate attacks.”
The bill (A-3347) would create the New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy in the Department of Education to serve as a central office for best practices, training standards, and compliance oversight in all matters related to school safety and security, including prevention and intervention efforts, and emergency preparedness planning.
The academy would provide free ongoing professional development on national and state best practices, as well as the most current resources on school safety and security, assume a lead role in setting the vision for school safety and security and provide a coordinated and interdisciplinary approach to providing technical assistance and guidance to schools in the state.
Under the bill, the academy would have to develop and implement a School Safety Specialist Certification Program. The program would offer free training to newly-appointed school safety specialists in the areas of bullying, hazing, truancy, Internet safety, emergency planning, emergency drills, drugs, weapons, gangs and school policing, and any other areas deemed necessary. The academy also would offer annual training sessions for certified school safety specialists.
The bill would direct each school district superintendent to designate a school administrator to be school safety specialist for the district. The school safety specialist must complete the certification program developed by the academy and would be responsible for:
- the supervision and oversight of all school safety and security personnel, policies and procedures in the school district;
- ensuring that these policies and procedures are in compliance with state law and regulations; and
- providing the necessary training and resources to school district staff in matters related to school safety and security.
The school safety specialist also would serve as the school district liaison with local law enforcement and national, state, and community agencies and organizations in matters of school safety and security.
The measure, which already has received Assembly approval, was advanced by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee. It now awaits further Senate consideration.