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Codey Issues School-Security Directives

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PostPosted: Mon Oct 31, 2005 7:58 pm    Post subject: Codey Issues School-Security Directives Reply with quote

PO BOX 004

Contact: Kelley Heck

RELEASE: October 19, 2005

Codey Issues School-Security Directives Based on Historic Checklist Audits

Majority of 3,350 Schools Demonstrate Heightened Awareness, Preparation

(WEST CALDWELL) – Acting Governor Richard J. Codey today issued directives that will improve communications and training for law enforcement and school officials in response to findings from the unprecedented School Security Checklist audit, a first of its kind in the nation.

“When I took Office, I made a pledge to parents across this State,” said Codey, after releasing findings from the historic initiative at Caldwell High School. “If I accomplish nothing else, our children and our schools will be safer. The results of our historic School Security audit give parents like myself some peace of mind.”

New Jersey schools are making significant progress in terms of security, based on audits from more than 3,350 schools throughout the state. Administrators are demonstrating a heightened awareness of security issues and an eagerness to learn more to reduce risk at their schools. Most school officials have a working understanding of the nature of emergencies and have developed security-related plans.

“Today's audit results are not an end in themselves,” said Attorney General Peter C. Harvey. “Rather, they are significant in signaling a dynamic partnership between law enforcement and the education community that must continue and deepen. Neither police officers nor educators

alone can keep our children secure, but the template for cooperation we have forged will provide an even safer future for our students.”

“We have accomplished something unprecedented: A security audit of virtually every school in New Jersey,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of State Police and Director of the Office of Emergency Management. This could not have happened without a united effort between dozens of law enforcement and education agencies at every level in New Jersey. We learned that, to move forward and enhance our schools’ security, we must remain united with uniform emergency procedures at our schools.”

“This audit and the database are the result of an exceptional cooperative effort by the State Police, the Attorney General’s Office, DOE and local law enforcement agencies and school districts,” said Acting Commissioner of Education Lucille E. Davy. “While the audit shows that many schools have taken significant steps to implement better security policies, it also gives us a clearer picture of the areas that do need to be addressed, including standardized emergency procedures and more comprehensive training for school staffs.”

“New Jersey's school security initiative is vital and forward-looking,” said Sidney J. Caspersen, Director of the New Jersey Office of Counter-Terrorism. “This is especially true given that schools and other 'soft targets' may be potential concerns, especially as we observe an international trend toward smaller-scale terrorist attacks. The cooperation of law enforcement and school personnel provides a powerful defense.”

Consider key findings from the statewide school audit:

· Ninety-six percent of the schools have developed or are developing written protocols for emergency and crisis management.

· More than 89 percent of the schools have comprehensive plans, procedures and mechanisms for responding to emergencies. Those plans include close coordination with law enforcement, health and social service agencies, and emergency management planners.

· More than 90 percent of districts or schools have met with local law enforcement officials to discuss the possibility of increased law enforcement presence in and around schools.

· Eighty-seven percent of the schools are conducting security awareness training for school staff.

· Eighty-nine percent of the schools have or are developing measures to prevent unauthorized access to school grounds.

· Seventy-one percent of the schools have completed or are completing comprehensive security needs assessments.

· Seventy-six percent of the schools have protocols to be followed when the U.S. Department of Homeland Security changes the homeland security threat level. The schools that do not have such protocols rely on direction from the State Department of Education during changes in the threat level.

· About 94 percent of the schools have or are developing codes of student conduct, including protocols on bullying, firearms offenses and assaults with weapons.

The audits also underscored the need for a statewide, uniform standard. Policy inconsistencies were found throughout the state.

Although New Jersey’s schools have been proactive in developing security and crisis-management procedures, Codey believes more must be done to protect students.

The Acting Governor is requiring state agencies to ensure that the following steps are taken:

· Schools must establish on-going relationships with local law enforcement. Each school must form a safety committee, comprised of school officials, local law enforcement and other first responders, that must meet regularly to discuss and update the school’s plan for security issues. Each school’s checklist must be reviewed and updated annually.

· All schools must have comprehensive security plans. Schools that have not fully completed their school safety plans will be required to do so. It is imperative that every school in New Jersey has up-to-date plans for what to do in any emergency.

· School administrators must communicate their security plans to staff members. All teachers and staff members must understand their roles. Each school’s emergency response plans must be communicated to everyone on the school staff, including bus drivers, to enable them to recognize and appropriately respond to crises. Plans are useless if they sit on a shelf.

· Specialized security training must be developed and provided to school staff. The Department of Education (DOE) and the Department of Law and Public Safety (LPS) will develop and provide additional security training programs for school personnel.

· DOE must provide additional assistance to school districts. DOE will assign two staff members hired with federal Homeland Security funds to provide assistance to districts where schools have not completed school safety plans and where additional training is needed.

· Basic emergency procedures must be standardized. The State Police will develop uniform procedures for situations such as bomb threats and suspicious packages and distribute these practices to every district. It is difficult to coordinate emergency responses when basic security policies and the implementation of those policies vary significantly from school to school.

· All schools’ visitor policies must include sign-in logs, badges and limited access. The State Police will develop a list of standard procedures that must be part of all schools’ visitor access policies. These will include such practices as sign-in logs and badges, limiting visitor access to one entrance and towing all unauthorized vehicles.

· School construction sites must be monitored. Local law enforcement officials will visit and monitor any local school construction sites on a regular basis.

· DOE and LPS manuals and agreements must reflect security priorities. DOE’s Safety Manual: Best Practices Guidelines will be revised to address the priority areas identified by the audit. The Uniform Memorandum of Agreement – a standard document addressing the relationship between schools and the police which is developed by DOE and LPS and signed by each district and the local law enforcement agency – will be revised to include specific information on terrorist threats and school security.

Department of Agriculture must issue food safety guidelines. The Department of Agriculture will send posters and checklists to all school district food services to make sure employees watch for food and equipment tampering and security breaches and report suspicious activity. The checklists and are based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s guidelines for Bio-Security.

A first of its kind in the nation

The School Security Checklist audit is the result of an unprecedented level of cooperation and unity among state, county and local agencies, police officers and school administrators.

During the State of the State address, Codey launched the unprecedented initiative to improve the safety and security of schools across New Jersey.

Codey announced that the New Jersey State Police and the State Department of Education would create a comprehensive checklist of school security measures, and that specially trained law enforcement and education officials would use the checklist to conduct comprehensive audits at more than 3,000 public, private and charter schools in the state.

Each audit quantifies the security measures in place at schools and identifies areas that could be improved. The results of the surveys have been compiled into a massive database that provides a complete picture of school security in New Jersey.
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