TRENTON – With students returning to colleges and universities throughout New Jersey, Assembly Democrats Pamela R. Lampitt, Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. and Craig J. Coughlin are pushing legislation to ensure that colleges and universities have plans in place to address on-campus emergencies such as violent attacks or disease pandemics.
“We cannot allow ourselves to be lulled into thinking that our college campuses are sheltered islands of safety in a sometimes violent world,” said Lampitt (D-Camden), who chairs the Assembly higher education committee. “Comprehensive reviews will ensure the safety of students and faculty is always a top priority. We should never be in a situation where a review is needed because an outdated plan compounded a tragic situation.”
The measure (A-2405) would require schools to file with state homeland security and higher education officials comprehensive five-year campus security plans that identify a baseline of preparedness for all potential emergencies.
The bill was approved 80-0 by the Assembly in June and has now been referred to the Senate Education Committee.
“Among its provisions, the legislation would require security protocols to spell out a clear delegation of authority and lines of administrative succession, identify and provide for the protection of vital records and spell-out procedures for periodic tests,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex).
“A security plan would undergo an immediate review in the event of an on-campus incident,” said Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “State homeland security and higher education officials also would be authorized to work directly with a school and other agencies to augment any areas of a plan they find to be deficient.”
The measure builds upon the work of the New Jersey Campus Security Task Force created following the April 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech to recommend ways for New Jersey’s colleges and universities to enhance on-campus safety.
The task force’s October 2007 report recommended that the state’s higher education institutions include in their emergency management plans specific protocols and procedures for incidents on campus where a person has a weapon as well as establishing formal relationships with state and local law enforcement and first responders.
“The real lesson of Virginia Tech is that proactive, regular, and comprehensive safety reviews can protect against systemic breakdowns that can compound an emergency,” said Lampitt. “No New Jersey school should ever have to undertake an after-the-fact review.”
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