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Know the Drill

New Jersey Senate passes bill mandating schools to conduct security drills.

An important school security bill passed the New Jersey Senate on Dec. 10, 2009. Senate bill S2518 now requires monthly school security drills for all public and non-public schools in the state of New Jersey.

The first bill of this kind was passed in Michigan on June 16, 2006. Senate Bill 1108 was passed into law, requiring schools to conduct lockdown drills. The law also mandates that some of these drills must be conducted during a lunch period, recess or any time students are not in the classroom.

In a unanimous 39 to 0 vote, the New Jersey bill passed both houses. Students and faculty are now mandated to practice emergency response procedures such as nonfire evacuation, lockdown and active shooter response drills, along with a fire drill, once a month. Currently, all New Jersey schools are required to conduct two fire drills per month. The state also must develop and disseminate training materials to each school district and nonpublic school to assist them in properly conducting school security drills.

Some New Jersey schools already practice such drills, although sporadically. Faculty and staff at Marie V. Duffy Elementary School in Wharton, N.J., know how important security drills are.

"As a parent and educator, I strongly believe that all schools should perform monthly security and fire drills," said one Duffy teacher. "Anything can happen at any given time, and it’s better to be prepared than to be in a panic."

For Marie V. Duffy Elementary School, a typical security drill is initiated by the principal announcing the drill over the loudspeaker. A "code red" drill means the school must practice the lockdown procedure in which kindergarten teachers instruct children to hide in the cubby area and or the closet, which are out of sight from windows and doors. The older students are instructed to line up against a wall and stay out of sight from windows and doors. The staff pulls down the blinds and locks all the windows and doors. Once classrooms are secure, the principal and vice principal visit every room, bang on the doors and try to gain access to the classroom. Meanwhile, the teachers instruct the students to remain calm and quiet.

"This bill will help New Jersey schools become better prepared for such emergencies, and parents and faculty will have confidence in knowing that the students have been taught and practiced such procedures and know how to react," the Duffy teacher said.

The adoption of similar legislation in other states will be a strong measure in preparing for disasters in the classroom.

About the Author

Sherleen Mahoney is a Web managing editor at 1105 Media.

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