Advocates for stricter gun laws talk not only about the physical damage being done to those struck by a bullet but the mental anguish that goes along with it as well, especially for school children.
To address this concern, Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D-37) recently introduced legislation that would ensure lockdown drills take into consideration the impact these drills can have on the mental health of students, while continuing the safety preparations for students should an intruder appear at a school.
The bill, S-3726, would require that a school district planning to conduct a school security drill, including “lockdowns” or simulations, when students are present be allowed to do so only after advance written notice has been provided to staff, and parents/guardians of enrolled students in the district.
Active Shooter Drills
“The goal of so-called ‘active-shooter’ drills is to prepare students for possible lockdown and other preventative measures in the case of a real emergency,” according to Weinberg in a press statement, who during her career has been a champion of stricter gun laws and the health and safety of Garden State students.
“However, we need to realize that sometimes the drills themselves can cause trauma, particularly to younger students. It will require that notice include clear messaging to students and staff that the event is a drill, and that no danger exists,” said the State Senator.
The bill would ensure that schools are aware of and able to provide trauma-informed approaches to address student inquiries about the drills. It would prohibit the use of fake blood, real or fake firearms, and simulations of gunshots, and ensure that drills do not require students to play victims during the simulation.
Additionally, the legislation would permit emergency personnel access to the buildings and grounds of its schools for security drills scheduled outside school hours.
“We also need to make sure we are consistent in our messaging, to make sure students know the difference between a drill and a real-time event,” stated Weinberg. “Our students have enough stress in their lives without adding one more layer of trauma while conducting what are supposed to be informational, educational and practical ‘active-shooter drills’.”
According to Weinberg’s office using New Jersey State Police tracking, 218 people in New Jersey died in shootings in 2020, a spike of 45% up from 2019. Another 1,052 New Jersey residents were wounded by gunfire.
The legislation by the North Jersey State Senator comes after Gov. Phil Murphy unveiled a sweeping series of reforms and legislation aimed at tightening New Jersey’s gun control laws, which are already considered to be among the toughest in the nation.
The suite of measures, a mix of executive actions and legislation, include setting aside $10 million in the state budget to fund gun violence intervention programs; requiring gun permit applicants to first pass a safety course; mandating all guns not in use be kept in a lockbox or safe; increasing the firearm purchase age to 21 from 18 and directing the New Jersey Department of Education to overhaul active shooter drills to minimize stress on students.
Weinberg stressed that while students needed to be prepared for the worst, “we need also to continue to address the gun issue directly—especially in regard to ease of accessing firearms and the mental health issues that so often play an underlying role in the nation’s rising epidemic of gun violence.”