Authored by: Kevin M. Craig
While COVID-19 has consumed our conversations and resources over the past year, and variants of COVID-19 and rising levels of infection continue to require schools to adapt for in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year, planning for masks, vaccines, disinfecting, and other disease mitigation strategies, preparation for the upcoming school year must also include the traditional back-to-school planning of years past. Safety and security considerations should top the list to ensure a safe return for students and staff.
NJ Schools must comply with several safety and security-related laws and regulations. These security measures and related laws are mandatory and not optional or a matter of choice for individual schools or districts. Codified laws, they required school safety and security compliance measures. School leaders must ensure their schools meet these requirements to comply with the law and provide a safe and secure educational environment.
School Safety and Security Plan Annual Review
Under N.J.A.C. 6A:16-5.1 School Safety and Security Plans, “each school district is required to have comprehensive plans, procedures and mechanisms that provide for safety and security in the school district’s public schools. The School Safety and Security Plan (SSSP) must meet the minimum state requirements and clearly define plans, policies and procedures for prevention of, response to and recovery from emergencies and crises.” By the third week of October, districts, together with key stakeholders, are required to review and update their district’s SSSP.
School districts must annually submit a Statement of Assurance to their County Office of Education by November 30 of each year.
How PorzioCS Can Help
The PorzioCS School Safety Team has developed, revised, and updated NJ specific plans for public and non-public schools throughout NJ. The team has extensive experience in law enforcement, school security, and emergency management, and a thorough understanding of the requirements promulgated by the NJDOE School Safety and Security Plans Minimum Requirements, 2011. PorzioCS can develop a NJDOE compliant plan for your school or district, or update or revise your existing plan to ensure compliance. Our team can assist with the development and coordination of your school/district planning team to introduce a new plan or facilitate the required annual review so school leaders can sign and submit the Statement of Assurance with confidence.
Fire and Security Drills
Under N.J.S.A. 18A:41-1 Fire and Security Drills, “every principal of a school of two or more rooms, or of a school of one room, when located above the first story of a building, shall have at least one fire drill and one school security drill each month within the school hours, including any summer months during which the school is open for instructional programs.” Schools must conduct a fire drill within the first 10 days and a school security drill within the first 15 days of the beginning of the school year.
Schools must hold at least two of each of the following security drills annually:
- Active shooter
- Non-Fire Evacuation
- Bomb threat
School districts must annually submit a Statement of Assurance to their County Office of Education by June 30 of each year.
How PorzioCS Can Help
PorzioCS has practical experience planning, scheduling, and coordinating drills to ensure compliance with the NJ Drill Law. Our team has participated in, scheduled, coordinated, observed, and reviewed drills in public and non-public schools, and has participated in unannounced drill observations conducted by the NJDOE. In collaboration with district staff, our team can develop a drill schedule to comply with applicable laws related to type and frequency of drills, observe drills, review drill records, and conduct post-drill debriefings to provide feedback and guidance and ensure compliance.
Staff Training (Including Substitutes)
Under N.J.S.A 18A:41-7 Provision of training on school safety, security, a local board of education and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school shall ensure that all full-time employees in the district or nonpublic school are provided with training on school safety and security that includes instruction on school security drills.
A local board of education and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school shall ensure that individuals employed in the school district or nonpublic school in a substitute capacity are provided with information and training on the district’s or nonpublic school’s practices and procedures on school safety and security, including instruction on school security drills, evacuation procedures, and emergency response protocols in the school district or nonpublic school and the school building where the individuals are employed.
How PorzioCS Can Help
PorzioCS provides school security training for administrators, faculty, support staff, and security personnel to meet this requirement. Training programs are tailored to meet the unique needs of each school/district. Our team of experts can facilitate trainings on a range of safety and security topics to meet your needs. Our most popular trainings include School Security Awareness, Security Roles and Responsibilities, Security Awareness for Main Office /Support Staff, School Security Officer Training, Behavioral Threat Assessment Training, School Safety and Security Considerations for Approved Private Schools for Students with Disabilities (APSSD). Customized trainings are available upon request.
Annual School Security Audit
“P.L. 2019, CHAPTER 478, approved January 21, 2020-Requires school districts and nonpublic schools to conduct audits of security features of buildings, grounds, and communication systems and to submit audits to NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and DOE. A school district and a non-public school shall annually conduct a school safety audit for each school building using the checklist developed by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness in collaboration with the Department of Education.”
“The school district and the nonpublic school shall submit the completed audit to the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness and the Department of Education. The audits shall be
kept confidential and shall not be deemed a public record, but may be utilized for the purposes of allocating any State grants or loans made available for the purpose of school facility safety and security upgrades.”
How PorzioCS Can Help
The PorzioCS team has conducted comprehensive security assessments for schools throughout NJ. Our clients include public and non-public schools and APSSD’s in urban, suburban, and rural environments. Our assessments include comprehensive on-site assessments of all district facilities, compliance review of safety and security plans and policies, interviews with key stakeholders, and a detailed assessment report with findings and recommendations.
School security is an ongoing process with annual compliance requirements. These are just a few to start the school year with a renewed focus on safety and security.
The PorzioCS team is available to assist your school in achieving your security goals and ensuring compliance with related laws and regulations and providing the safest environment possible for staff and students.