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Gov. Murphy signs legislation requiring age-appropriate school security drills

Governor Phil Murphy has signed legislation (A-5727/S-3726) into law which requires school security drills to be age-appropriate and to prevent unnecessary traumatization of children.

Among other requirements, the legislation prohibits the use of fake blood, real or prop firearms, or the simulations of gun shots or explosions in school security drills, according to a press release from the Governor’s office.

The legislation will strike an appropriate balance between ensuring students are informed and ready for threats that schools face in the present day, while being sensitive to the mental health needs of children, according to the press release.

“Unfortunately, school security drills are a reality of the environment our students are living in,” said Murphy. “These necessary exercises are proven to save lives, but may also traumatize young children if not conducted in an appropriate manner.

“This legislation will ensure that school security drills provide students with the information and preparedness they need to stay safe in emergency situations, while also taking steps to prevent drills from having a harmful impact on the mental health of our children,” he said.

“This measure strikes a balance that will continue to ensure students and staff in our schools remain safe and prepared to respond to emergencies, while also aiming to prevent drills from causing undue confusion or alarm,” said Acting Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Allen McMillan.

“We have always maintained the need for schools to provide a balanced, age-appropriate approach to school safety – a point we have stressed in the numerous training programs and drill observations the department has conducted, and continues to conduct,” McMillan said.

“I applaud Gov. Murphy and our legislators for their continued dedication to the security of communities, and most importantly, to our children in schools,” said Laurie Doran, acting director of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness (NJOHSP).

“As threats continue to evolve, so does the need for our tactics. This bill helps ensure our school security efforts embrace students and families in a way that cultivates a culture of preparedness through continual improvement.

“Working with our state and local partners, NJOHSP will continue to prioritize the safety and security of schools by providing training, assessments, outreach and other resources to ensure the collective resilience of our school communities,” Doran said.

A-5727/S-3726 requires the following guidance and procedures for school districts conducting school security drills when students are present:

• Drills will include clear, developmentally and age-appropriate messaging to students and staff at the conclusion of the drill that the event is a drill and no current danger exists;

• Drills cannot include the use of fake blood, real or prop firearms, or the simulations of gun shots, explosions, or other sounds or visuals that may induce panic or a traumatic response from a student or a school district employee;

• Drills must be accessible to students with disabilities and mental health conditions, and provides all necessary accommodations for these students;

• School districts must provide written notification to the parent or guardian of a student enrolled in the district following completion of a school security drill; the notice must be provided to the parent or guardian by no later than the end of the school day on which the school security drill is conducted;

• School districts may permit emergency personnel access to the buildings and grounds of its schools for school security drills that are scheduled outside of school hours and during such times as students are not present;

• District administrators must review and update their school security drill procedures using a process that coincides with the review of the school safety and security plan … and collects input from emergency personnel, parents and guardians of students enrolled in the district, teachers and staff employed in the district, mental health professionals, and student government representatives from multiple grade levels;

• School districts will annually track data on such measures and information as are required by the Commissioner of Education and must report the data to the commissioner, according to the press release.

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