Assemblywoman Serena DiMaso (R-Monmouth), along with her colleagues Assemblywomen Nancy Munoz (R-Union) and Holly Schepisi (R-Bergen), today called on the legislature to take action on a 10 bill package they introduced last week to address school safety in light of the recent shooting in Parkland, Florida and other tragic incidents.
The proposed legislation is based on recommendations from two panels of experts that were set-up in the wake of the 2012 school shooting in Newtown, Conn, DiMaso and Munoz said in a joint statement. The groups included government officials, education leaders, law enforcement, community members, school officials, teachers and parents.
“Up until now the majority of discussions have focused on stricter gun laws, which are already the toughest in the nation,” said Munoz. “But we can make a significant difference by focusing on making our schools the safest in the country.”
“The school-security and gun-violence task forces gave us a set of security recommendations years ago, unfortunately the Legislature failed to act on these recommendations,” said DiMaso (R-Monmouth). “Many school districts are doing everything they can to ensure their schools are as safe as possible, but the state can do more to help ensure those districts are using the best practices.”
One of the recommendations from a 2015 school-security task force report called for requiring all students and staff to wear visible identification cards at all times, something that has become common in some school districts but is hardly standard practice.
Other preparedness proposals call for uniform training of all school employees with law enforcement to ensure use of best practices before, during and after school emergencies, and better communication during emergencies.
“Making our schools safe is everyone’s responsibility,” continued Munoz. “Law enforcement, school administrators, teachers and students all have a role to play. Having comprehensive and consistent plans in place statewide will help make our schools as safe as possible for everyone.”
The Senate and Assembly education committees are expected to hold hearing on issues related to school security on Thursday.
“Everyone should feel safe at school: students, parents, and teachers alike,” concluded DiMaso. “Making sure that all our schools are using the best plans will ease all concerns.”
The bill package includes:
– Requiring the attorney general and Education Department to share best practices on school security with school districts (AR154), based on recommendation #4 of the 2015 N.J. School Security Task Force report.
– Training for all school employees and local police on how to handle a school emergency (A3787 and A3793), based on recommendation #5 of the 2015 N.J. School Security Task Force Report and recommendation #5.10 of the 2013 N.J. SAFE Task Force Report.
– Create a 24-hour State Police hotline for tips that must be shared with local police and school officials (A3789), based on recommendation #5.1 of the 2013 N.J. SAFE Task Force Report.
– Better real-time communication between school security, emergency responders and law enforcement during emergencies, and procedures to notify parents (A3788), based on recommendation #10-12 of the 2015 N.J. School Security Task Force Report.
– Require all school employees and students to carry identification cards (A3790), based on recommendation #27-31 of the 2015 N.J. School Security Task Force Report.
– The Department of Education must review and rate all school safety and security plans and school district emergency communications policies (A3791.
– Require DOE and Homeland Security to develop online forum for schools to share best practices (A3792), based on recommendation #5.12 of the 2013 N.J. SAFE Task Force Report.