Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Eric Houghtaling to ensure school buildings are safe was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-4147) would require school districts to annually conduct a school safety audit for each of its buildings using a standardized checklist. The school district would submit the completed audit to the state Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the Department of Education. The audits would be kept confidential and would not be deemed a public record. The audits may be used for the purposes of allocating any state grants or loans available for school facility safety and security upgrades.
“Sadly, these are things that schools have to think about and prepare for,” said Houghtaling. “These annual audits can help schools keep track of what security features are working, and what needs enhancing to help ensure the safety of students, teachers and staff.”
The checklist, which would be used by school districts to conduct the audit, would be developed by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in collaboration with the Department of Education, and would be reviewed annually and updated as appropriate.
The checklist would include items to assess the security features and security vulnerabilities of a school district’s school buildings and grounds. It would also include items to assess the emergency notification systems used to facilitate notification of the community in the case of school emergencies.
Under the bill, school districts would be provided technical assistance to facilitate the completion of the checklists in a uniform manner.
This act would take effect immediately and would be applicable to the first full school year beginning after the date of enactment.
The bill was released by the Assembly Education Committee.