(TRENTON) - Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Ralph R. Caputo, Patrick J. Diegnan, L. Grace Spencer, Cleopatra Tucker, Annette Quijano, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Shavonda Sumter and Angela McKnight to require the installation of panic alarms and red emergency lights in public elementary and secondary schools for use in security emergencies was approved Thursday by the full Assembly.
"Our children deserve the chance to learn in peace," said Caputo (D-Essex). "I am not suggesting this will stop all security threats, but coupled with security measures already in place, it can increase the chances of diffusing a bad situation without further harm to students and staff."
"The threat of violence is a sad reality that even our schools are not safe from," said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). "This is one incremental remedy but it can be put in place economically and quickly. There is no excuse for delay. The safety of our kids and our teachers is at stake."
"The last thing you want to do in an emergency is make an already chaotic situation worse. The alarm and red light would quietly signal law enforcement to an emergency at the school, without tipping off an intruder and increasing the risk to students and staff members," said Spencer (D-Essex).
"We have to utilize all sensible measures available to us to help our schools defend themselves against an attack," said Tucker (D-Essex). "These systems help give students, parents and staff the peace of mind that in the case of an emergency, there is a direct link to local law enforcement."
"A quick response from law enforcement to an emergency can make all the difference in the outcome," said Quijano (D-Union). "We owe it to these children and the adults charged with their care to give them as much help as possible if they are ever confronted with a life and death situation."
"In an emergency, every minute counts. It is particularly crucial when children are involved," said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). "Too many schools have been targeted and too many innocent people have paid the price. Beefing up school security to better protect our children is a necessity."
"Boosting security measures with a silent alarm that would notify law enforcement as soon as it is activated could help reduce the potential for greater harm in an emergency," said Sumter (D-Passaic/Bergen). "Any measure that can help lessen this risk is an investment worth making."
"There is no single, quick fix to eliminate the threat violence in our schools. But there are steps we can take to better protect students and staff if they are ever faced with a dangerous situation. This is one of them," said McKnight (D-Hudson). "This is an investment worth making."
The bill (A-191) requires that all public elementary and secondary schools be equipped with a panic alarm for use in a school security emergency including, but not limited to, a non-fire evacuation, lockdown, or active shooter situation. The alarm would be an addition to existing security systems.
The alarm, which would not be audible within the school building, must be directly linked to local law enforcement and immediately transmit a signal or message to the authorities upon activation. In the case of a school building located in a municipality where there is no police department, the panic alarm would be linked to a location designated by the Superintendent of State Police.
The bill also requires that a red emergency light be affixed to the exterior of all public elementary and secondary school buildings in a highly visible location above or near the front entrance. In the case of a school building that is not clearly visible from the nearest public roadway; the emergency light would be located on that public roadway. The light would be linked to the school's panic alarm so that it turns on when the alarm is activated.
Under the bill, the full cost of these systems would be funded by
The proceeds of bonds authorized to be issued to fund the state share of the costs of Schools Development Authority district school facilities projects, or the state share of the costs of school facilities projects in all other districts.
The bill would take effect on the first day of the tenth month after enactment.
The bill was approved 58-13-3 and now heads to the Senate for further consideration.