A few years ago, I was proud to be named to a statewide task force that was created when Gov. Chris Christie signed a law creating the New Jersey School Security Task Force.
As part of my participation in that group, it was my pleasure to provide a report on what NJSBA’s School Security Task Force had done in the course of researching and issuing its own exhaustive report.
NJSBA’s final report includes 45 recommendations addressing crisis planning, the use of security personnel, the working relationship between school officials and law enforcement, school culture and climate, architectural enhancements, security equipment, and financing. The full text of the NJSBA report is available online in the “Research” section of NJSBA’s website at staging.njsba.org/news-information/research.
In developing the report, the NJSBA task force heard from experts representing law enforcement, school security, architecture, emergency planning, school design and higher education. Our task force was made up of local school board members who had expertise in law enforcement, school design, school administration, Homeland Security, corporate security, crisis planning, school climate, student rights, financing and security equipment. We also involved several staff members of NJSBA.
The task force’s research concluded that geography, facility design, community environment and access to law enforcement and emergency responders result in distinct security needs in each school district. A “one-size-fits-all” approach will not necessarily work.
The state School Security Task Force made ample use NJSBA’s report, and referenced it in its own final report, issued last summer. The state task force report also had an abundance of solidly researched recommendations – 42 of them. They included such items as requiring ID badges, deploying resource officers in each school, establishing a school safety specialist academy, improving response times to emergencies; and improving school-based emergency communications capabilities. The full report is available here.
I am pleased to note that one recommendation that appeared in both reports is a step closer to becoming reality. A bill recently passed by the state Senate would establish a new category of “Class III” special law enforcement officers (SLEOs) who would be specifically authorized to provide security in the state’s public and nonpublic schools. The new SLEOs would be retired police officers who are less than 65 years old. They would not be subject to the statutory 20-hour work week limit that applies to special law enforcement officers. In addition, they would not be eligible for health care or retirement benefits. These conditions would help lower the cost of providing qualified security personnel in schools.
The recommendations in both of these reports include not only public policy changes, but also changes that can be implemented by districts. I look forward to seeing both the state and individual districts put more of these best practices into operation.