A North Jersey Republican State Senator wants schools in the Garden State to take a county pilot program statewide that attempts to prevent violence at schools while making sure all necessary steps are taken to hardened campus from being the scene of the next mass shooting incident.
“The tragedy in Uvalde has everyone asking if we’re doing everything we can do to keep our schools safe,” said State Sen. Anthony Bucco (R-25). “In answering that question, it’s important that we look at both existing resources that are available to districts today and new laws and programs that can prevent violence and increase the security readiness of our schools.”
For new programs, Bucco is a sponsor of the Responsible School Violence Prevention, Preparation, and Protection (RSVP-3) Pilot Program. The RSVP-3 program is designed to train law enforcement officers, mental health professionals, teachers and other school staff, and students to identify and report behaviors that signal potential threats to school safety and prevent violence before it occurs.
Expand Pilot Program
“RSVP-3 was a local program developed and employed in Morris County that is based on extensive research into school shootings by the federal Safe School Initiative,” said Bucco. “(The program) is a model that the rest of New Jersey can emulate for its efforts to prevent school violence…a thoughtful and well-designed program that should be built upon and expanded to the rest of the state.”
Bucco stressed the importance of parents and other mentors in the lives of children to talk to them to make sure they’re ok as well as
Talking to Kids
“Really engaging with them on a constant basis can help us learn when they’re struggling and give us the opportunity to resolve their problems in a productive, non-violent way. I look forward to continuing my bipartisan work to ensure our schools, houses of worship, and communities remain safe,” he said.
Aside from the RSVP-3 program, the Morris County lawmaker said it’s important for all interested parties to discuss and review security measures to ensure that children and their teachers are protected in North Jersey schools.
Bucco highlighted several existing resources that school districts can utilize to improve campus security, including a 2016 law he sponsored with his late father that created a new class of special law enforcement officers for school security.
The law allows retired-in-good-standing, former full-time New Jersey law enforcement officers younger than 65 years old to be hired as Class Three officers to help protect schools and county colleges.
“The Class Three officers law provides districts an affordable way to boost security while ensuring that experienced officers are ready in our schools to respond to emergencies,” said Bucco. “I highly recommend that any school districts that haven’t investigated the use of Class Three officers to fill gaps in their security to give it a real look.”
Additionally, Bucco said funding for K-12 security projects may be available through the Securing Our Children’s Future Bond Act, which was passed by the Legislature and approved by New Jersey voters in 2018. Seventy five million was made available through a state grant program administered to help school districts complete security infrastructure projects.
Emphasis on Hardening Schools
“While most of the funds have been distributed, more than $4 million may still be available to help defray the cost of important school security improvements,” he said.
Bucco, who did not mention any measures sought by Democrats such as background checks or raising the age limit to purchase a gun to 21, noted there is no single solution that will address every school security concern.
“We need to look at infrastructure hardening, security staffing, improving threat identification, and more to keep our schools safe,” added Bucco.