Senator Dawn Marie Addiego, Assemblyman Scott Rudder and Assemblyman Chris Brown are introducing legislation to enhance the safety of New Jersey school students.
“As a society, we have learned some hard lessons. The vulnerability of our children demands changes in the way we build our schools,” Addiego said. “Assuring a safe and welcoming learning environment for every child in New Jersey schools is our ultimate priority.”
The bill requires the Department of Community Affairs and the Department of Education to work together to establish a school security construction code, which would apply to the construction of new public elementary and secondary school buildings and school additions.
“Experts should be making the decisions about how to best secure our schools,” Brown said. “We will direct the commissioner of DCA, in developing the code, to consult with law enforcement authorities, specialists in school building security, and recommendations of national experts on construction and design practices. This will establish the roadmap for constructing safer schools and saving lives.”
The legislation establishes new construction standards and policies for schools, similar to the broad reforms initiated after the 1958 fire that killed 92 students at Our Lady of Angels School in Chicago.
“Our nation has experienced a paradigm shift after the Connecticut tragedy similar to the one that followed the horrific school fire,” Rudder said. “In the aftermath of the blaze, improved school construction standards were established, strict evacuation procedures were adopted, and frequent fire drills became the norm. As a result, no student has died in a school fire in more than 50 years. Our goal is to be as effective with new and better rules and policies.”
“There are strategies already being used in some schools, including ‘hardening’ entrances to impede access to the interior of the facility. Some buildings use improved locks and hardware on classroom and office doors to stop intruders,” Addiego said. “DCA and DOE will determine the most effective safeguards and assure they are integrated into the design of new facilities.”