The New Jersey School Security Task Force, a multi-agency group charged with studying ways to improve security in New Jersey’s public schools, last week issued a final report with 42 recommendations, ranging from requiring ID badges to deploying resource officers in each school.
NJSBA President Donald Webster, Jr. served on the state’s task force, which also included representatives of the New Jersey Department of Education, the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, and the Schools Development Authority, as well as three other state-level education associations. The task force was commissioned by the Legislature.
The state panel’s recommendations include:
- Establishing a School Safety Specialist Academy;
- Improving response times to emergencies;
- Improving school-based emergency communications capabilities;
- With financial and staffing considerations, deploying trained school resource officers in each school building; and
- Requiring identification cards for staff and students to be displayed in school.
NJSBA’s October Report The state task force report referenced NJSBA’s own study, released in October 2014. That report, titled What Makes Schools Safe, delved into seven key areas: security personnel; school climate, communications, policy and planning, training; physical security (architecture, equipment), and financing.
School Resource Officers News media coverage following last week’s release of the state’s school security report focused heavily on a recommendation calling for the placement of school resource offices in each school building.
NJSBA’s October 2014 study found that school resource officers can provide a critical safety factor and valuable counseling and support services for students. It cited school resource officers as the “preferred” model for a law enforcement presence in schools, based on their specialized training.
Nonetheless, the NJSBA study recognized the financial difficulty many school districts face in funding the school resource officer position and why schools might consider alternatives. NJSBA’s October 2014 report called for federal and state funds to subsidize the employment of school resources officers. The Association also encourages school districts and municipalities to work collaboratively to fund the positions.
Legislation Needed Some of the recommendations in last week’s state task force report would require changes to existing state laws and regulations; other recommendations could be implemented administratively at the state or local levels. The full text of last week’s state task force report may be accessed here.
One section of the 59-page state task force report traces New Jersey’s history of developing and implementing a series of initiatives, beginning in 1988, to deter threats to school safety and develop programs designed to prevent behavior associated with school violence.
The New Jersey School Security Task Force was created by statute in August 2013. The legislation called on the state task force to investigate a number of specific issues, such as the architectural design of schools, staff training, screening systems and resource officers.