In light of recent events, Senator Anthony M. Bucco said it’s important for legislators, school administrators, and parents to discuss and review security measures to ensure that children and their teachers are protected in our schools.
“The tragedy in Uvalde has everyone asking if we’re doing everything we can do to keep our schools safe,” said Bucco. “In answering that question, it’s important that we look at both existing resources that are available to districts today and new laws and programs that can prevent violence and increase the security readiness of our schools.”
Bucco highlighted several existing resources that school districts can utilize to improve campus security, including a 2016 law that created a new class of special law enforcement officers for school security.
The law, sponsored by Bucco when he was an assemblyman in partnership with his father, the late Sen. Anthony R. Bucco, allows retired-in-good-standing, former full-time New Jersey law enforcement officers younger than 65 years old to be hired as Class Three officers to help protect schools and county colleges.
“The Class Three officers law provides districts an affordable way to boost security while ensuring that experienced officers are ready in our schools to respond to emergencies,” said Bucco. “I highly recommend that any school districts that haven’t investigated the use of Class Three officers to fill gaps in their security to give it a real look.”
Additionally, Bucco said funding for K-12 security projects may be available through the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which was passed by the Legislature and approved by New Jersey voters in 2018.
“As a result of the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, $75 million was made available through a grant program administered by the State to help school districts complete security infrastructure projects,” said Bucco. “While most of the funds have been distributed, more than $4 million may still be available to help defray the cost of important school security improvements. I encourage districts to reach out to the New Jersey Department of Education for details.”
Bucco also noted that legislators have proposed a number of new laws to address various school security concerns and to prevent violent acts before they happen.
A bill that he sponsors, S-677, would establish the “Responsible School Violence Prevention, Preparation, and Protection (RSVP-3) Pilot Program.”
The RSVP-3 program is designed to train law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, teachers and other school staff, and students to identify and report behaviors that signal potential threats to school safety with the intention of giving the school community the tools it needs to detect and prevent school violence before it occurs.
“RSVP-3 was a local program developed and employed in Morris County that is based on extensive research into school shootings by the federal Safe School Initiative,” said Bucco. “I applaud Morris County and Sheriff James Gannon for being a model that the rest of New Jersey can emulate for its efforts to prevent school violence. RSVP-3 is a thoughtful and well-designed program that should be built upon and expanded to the rest of the state.”
Bucco concluded by noting there is no single solution that will address every school security concern.
“We need to look at infrastructure hardening, security staffing, improving threat identification, and more to keep our schools safe,” added Bucco. “We also need to look at our kids and we need to talk to them to make sure they’re ok. Really engaging with them on a constant basis can help us learn when they’re struggling and give us the opportunity to resolve their problems in a productive, non-violent way. I look forward to continuing my bipartisan work to ensure our schools, houses of worship, and communities remain safe.”