TRENTON — State lawmakers could soon pass a package of bills designed to enhance security and better protect students, teachers and school employees from a wide range of threats, including an armed intruder entering the building.

Assemblyman Pat Diegnan, D-Middlesex, chairman of the Education Committee, said one measure calls for all school buildings to be equipped with emergency light and panic alarms linked to local law enforcement agencies.

“If a teacher has the ability to, if an incident is taking place, have immediate contact with law enforcement, seconds matter, I mean lives can be saved,” he said.

“They can be installed very, very inexpensively, I’ve been told as little as 75 bucks apiece, and give immediate access to law enforcement if an incident is taking place anywhere in the building.”

Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex.
Assemblyman Patrick Diegnan, D-Middlesex.

Another bill calls for enhanced security designs, like double vestibules, when new schools are constructed in the Garden State.

Diegnan pointed out this would mean “you have to buzz in through the first door, and then there’s actually a vestibule with a window that goes into the front office, a bullet proof window, and if in fact it’s an intruder they’re basically captured in that vestibule.

He explained in traditional school buildings, if you get through that first door, you have access to that entire building.

Another measure to be considered would require all schools to designate a school safety specialist, so everyone would know who to go to if any issue related to security comes up.

Diegnan pointed out several ideas to enhance school security have been discussed for years, but so far, specific recommendations have not been passed by the Legislature and implemented, and in many cases, officials aren’t sure what school districts around the state may have or have not done.

“We’ve really got to make school security a number one priority, we do not want a tragedy to take place in New Jersey," he said. “It cannot any longer be delayed.”

Another piece of legislation would create a School Safety Specialist Academy within the state Department of Education. The academy would offer information, training and oversight for all school security-related issues.

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