Every state lawmaker in New Jersey thinks schools need a set of rules governing how long they hold on to security-camera footage, so in the event of alleged sexual abuse, there's no fear that potential evidence has vanished.

Waiting for action by Gov. Phil Murphy is a proposed law that requires the Attorney General's Office develop protocol for retaining school surveillance video footage. The measure has passed both legislative houses unanimously.

"Some school districts only keep surveillance footage for a short period of time, sometimes just a few weeks," said bill sponsor Assemblywoman Pamela Lampitt, D-Camden. "That means that if a camera happens to capture misconduct, including the abuse of a child, proof of the incident may be deleted before the abuse comes to light."

Fellow sponsor Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Mercer, said the footage could also benefit teachers or other staff in the event of a false accusation.

"We don't have uniformity throughout the state, and we're asking them to create uniformity throughout the state," she said.

Maintaining access to footage, Reynolds-Jackson added, shouldn't be an issue in this digital age.

"You can put it in the Cloud. It's not the times of the past when we physically had to have it," she said.

The bill states the established protocol would also address measures to limit access to the footage. The Attorney General would be required to review the protocol annually and revise it as needed.

Terri Miller, president of Stop Educator Sexual Abuse, Misconduct and Exploitation, said victims sometimes take years or decades to come forward with their stories. And when they do, they're not only taking on the individual perpetrator, but an institution.

"I don't understand why they wouldn't hold on to video indefinitely," Miller said of schools.

In New Jersey, there is no statute of limitations for criminal charges to be filed related to sexual assault. There is a two-year window for civil cases.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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