New School Safety Laws: Panic Alarms Under Alyssa's Law
and Providing School Blueprints to Law Enforcement
During the 2018-19 legislative session, there were two significant school safety laws that were approved. The first, as discussed below, will require the installation of panic alarms in public schools. The second will require school officials to share school blueprints and maps with local police.
Back on February 14, 2018, Alyssa Alhadeff, a 14-year-old former Woodcliff Lake resident, was among the 17 persons killed during the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In memory of Alyssa, the Legislature named a school safety act after her.1 On February 6, 2019, almost one year after the tragic shooting, Governor Phil Murphy signed Alyssa’s Law.2 Governor Murphy had initially conditionally vetoed Alyssa’s Law because of the State’s accumulation of unfunded liabilities. With the passage of the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act,3 which included bond funding for school security project grants, among other projects, the Governor supported the new law. On November 6, 2018, a statewide school-bond referendum vote was held, and voters approved the issuance of the bonds.4
Alyssa’s Law is effective September 1, 2019.5 It generally requires every public elementary and secondary school building to be equipped with at least one panic alarm for use in a school emergency.6 The panic alarm must be a silent security signal that is directly linked to the local police department or to the State Police in the case of a school located in a municipality without a local police department.7 Each panic alarm must be installed by a licensed alarm installer and must conform to nationally recognized industry standards, including the standards of the National Fire Protection Association and the Underwriters Laboratories.8 In the alternative, a district may equip its school buildings with an emergency alarm mechanism that is approved by the Department of Education (DOE).9
The funding for the cost of panic alarms or DOE-approved alternative emergency mechanisms can come from the proceeds of the bonds issued pursuant to the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act.10 Any school district that installed a panic alarm or DOE-approved alternative emergency mechanism prior to September 2019 can receive reimbursement for those costs.11
Alyssa’s Law requires the New Jersey Schools Development Authority (SDA) to adopt rules and regulations to effectuate the purposes of the law.12 The regulations can be effective for a period of up to six months and, thereafter, the SDA may amend, adopt or re-adopt them.13 As of the date of the publication of this Legal Corner, the SDA has not posted any new regulations on its website.
The second school safety law was signed by Governor Murphy on May 10, 2019, and it became effective immediately.14 This new law requires every board to provide the local police or the State Police, in the case of districts in which there is no municipal police department, with a copy of the current blueprints and maps for all schools and school grounds in the district.15 Any time there are changes or revisions to the maps or blueprints copies of those revised documents must be provided to the local police department or the State Police as applicable.16
School safety can never be taken lightly. In light of Alyssa’s Law, every chief education officer should ensure that every school building is or becomes equipped with at least one panic alarm or emergency alarm mechanism that is approved by the DOE. Every chief education officer should confer with the local police or the State Police, and the alarm company contractor for the best location(s) to install the panic alarm(s). The system should be tested to ensure its proper operation in the event of a true emergency. In addition, every chief education officer should ensure that maps and blueprints of all the schools and school grounds in the district have been provided to the local police department or to the applicable State Police barracks. Questions regarding the new laws and their implementation should be directed to the board attorney.
- Brent Johnson, “‘Alyssa’s Law’ Named for Parkland Victim Would Require Panic Alarms in N.J. Schools,” NJ.com (December 23, 2018).
- Pub.L. 2019, ch. 33 (codified at N.J.S.A. 18A:41-10, et seq.).
- Pub.L. 2018, ch.119.
- Maddie Hanna, “N.J. Ballot Question Results: $500 Million for Vo-Tech, School Security is Approved," The Philadelphia Inquirer (November 7, 2018).
- Pub.L. 2019, ch. 33, §5 (“This act shall take effect on the first day of the tenth month following voter approval of P.L. 2018, c.119.”).
- See N.J.S.A. 18A:41-11(b).
- See N.J.S.A. 18A:41-11(a), (b).
- See N.J.S.A. 18A:41-11(c), (d).
- See N.J.S.A. 18A:41-11(e).
- See N.J.S.A. 18A:41-12.
- See N.J.S.A. 18A:41-13.
- Pub.L. 2019, ch. 106, §2 (“This act shall take effect immediately.”).
- N.J.S.A. 18A:41-7.1.