Oroho, Space and Wirths to introduce school safety measures

Legislators react to Florida school shooting tragedy

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  • State Sen. Steve Oroho (R-24)

  • State Assemblyman Parker Space (R-24)

  • State Assemblyman Harold Wirths (R-24)

State Sen. Steve Oroho and Assemblymen Parker Space and Hal Wirths (all Rrepublicans representing the 24th District) recently issued the following statement on new school security proposals in the wake of the Parkland school shootings:

As parents and grandparents, words cannot describe how sorry and saddened we feel for the families of the victims of the Parkland school shooting. That's why we have been talking to parents, educators, law enforcement, and experts about ways to make schools more secure and school children less vulnerable.

As elected representatives in the State Legislature, we take our duties to represent the people of our district seriously. When it comes to making laws, the process needs to be thoughtful and deliberative in order to carefully consider many things, including the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, the State Constitution, the views of one’s constituents, and the data. In the wake of a tragedy on the magnitude of the Parkland shootings, emotions run high, and there is always a rush to "do something" or to be seen to be doing something. Our goal is to do something that will make a difference to the security of our children and to those teachers and administrative personnel employed at our schools. When crafting laws that will affect the lives of New Jersey’s nearly nine million residents, no matter the circumstances, careful consideration is needed.

Clearly, this is an emotional time for our nation, and we do regret that some are using this time to push longstanding political agendas. These actions are not helpful in trying to find a responsible way to address this issue. New Jersey has many gun control laws presently in place. In fact, according to the Brady Campaign, a national gun control organization, New Jersey has some of the strictest laws concerning firearms in the nation. Our focus is on how to better protect the schools and the students and the educational professionals employed there.

After talking with many people about this, one idea rose to the surface that has often been overlooked: Hardening the security of school classrooms. This is already being done in some schools and the free market is offering technology to address this, but it is a focus that has been largely neglected in the debate. We have instructed the Office of Legislative Services to draft legislation to provide that classroom doors in all school districts and nonpublic schools who receive state security aid are security doors that are bulletproof and can be locked. We are not talking about wood doors – but doors used in places like bank counting rooms.

We need to create safe spaces in schools so that students and teachers can avoid any perpetrator that may be prowling the hallways. The longer and more difficult it is for a perpetrator to get into classrooms, the more time for law enforcement to respond and the more lives to be saved. A wood composition door with an inferior lock leaves only the teacher's body to shield her students. This has to end. We have the technology to protect every classroom in New Jersey, every classroom in America. Let's use it!

In addition, we are drafting legislation similar to what is being proposed in Florida which would establish enhanced criminal penalties for threats to schools, such as using social media threats of shootings or bombings.

We have already introduced The "School Safety and Security Act" which establishes penalties for certain criminal acts committed on school property (S1705 and A165) <URL destination="http://www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S2000/1705_I1.HTM. ">www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/S2000/1705_I1.HTM.

</URL>And of course Florida has the death penalty – we are championing legislation to reinstitute it in New Jersey for such heinous crimes as a school shooting.

New Jersey does have thorough school safety protocols and we have had a commission convened in 2013 to make recommendations, many of which have been enacted. That does not mean they cannot be improved upon, which working together we can achieve.

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