Following the school shooting massacre in Texas last month, a New Jersey legislator is proposing a series of new initiatives to improve safety in schools across the Garden State.

State Sen. Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth has introduced a package of bills aimed at bolstering the security of students, teachers, and staff in New Jersey’s classrooms.

He said school safety is at the top of everybody’s list right now and “we need to make sure we do our best, and wherever we fall short, to make sure we fix it before we have a tragedy in New Jersey.”

One measure, S2779, would require that in-service training for school employees on safety and security include a component on behavioral threat assessment,t.

Get everybody on the same page

“The goal is to make sure that there are no lapses in understanding security procedures, what to do in case of an emergency, amongst the entire staff of a school,” he said.

O’Scanlon said another bill, S2780, would require the Commissioner of Education in New Jersey to review all school safety and security plans to make sure “we have best practices, and that those best practices are shared with every school district in the state so that we don’t have a tragedy and subsequently find a loophole.”

Security guards should be armed

He is also proposing legislation, S2784, that states a school district may not prohibit active or retired law enforcement officers or registered security officers from carrying a firearm in the performance of school security duties if they are authorized under state law to carry a weapon.

“You can’t do much to fight off an intruder intent on killing children unless you’re armed and have the ability to do that,” he said.

APTOPIX Texas School Shooting
Law enforcement personnel stand outside Robb Elementary School following a shooting, Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills)
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He noted this is an issue because he’s been told some New Jersey school districts have not allowed their security personnel to carry weapons because of fears about accidental shootings.

Another proposed measure, S2785, directs the Attorney General's Office to establish a program for anonymous reporting of potential threats to school safety, and S2781 would require the Police Training Commission to adopt a training course on school emergency response.

He has also introduced a bill that would require the commissioner of education to review all school safety and security plans.

O’Scanlon said while some people have objected in the past to having armed security guards in schools “the overwhelming feeling of parents right now, at least for the foreseeable future, is that we do protect our children with armed law enforcement folks.”

He added the time has come “to have at least 1 person in each of these facilities who can defend our children if there is a threat.”

The legislative package has been referred to the State Senate Education Committee for consideration.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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