In N.J., a Governor's Effort to Bolster School Security

Plan would require updated lockdown guidelines, money for training, schools to plan with police

John Polomano, superintendent of the Bordentown Regional School District, said that his schools already have in place many of the governor's measures, with much success.

"We've been doing drills involving students -- it's a way of life," Polomano said.

Canas said it was his job -- and the goal of Corzine's plan -- to help students and teachers spend as much time as possible focusing on the things they come to school for.

"Teachers should be free to teach, and students should be free to learn," Canas said. "As recent events have shown, both these freedoms are threatened."

He said that even before the recent spate of school violence, his office sent a memo to all school administrators reminding them to revisit their safety plans to have at least "a policy that requires every visitor to stop at a checkpoint and show identification."

In a recent special report, The Inquirer tested the security of 43 schools in the region, and reporters found breaches at 20 of them.

Gov. Corzine yesterday proposed S.A.V.E. (Strategic Actions for Violence Elimination), a several-part proposal aimed at making New Jersey schools safer. Here are the highlights:

--Updated standards for school security. The new School Security Task Force will develop state guidelines for school lockdown, emergency evacuation, bomb threats, risk and violence assessments, and public information procedures.

--Regular school security drills and exercises. Corzine will work with the Legislature to propose initiatives requiring each school in the state to run security exercises and drills.

--Law enforcement coordination. Schools will be required to sign agreements with their local police departments. The governor's office will also work with law enforcement agencies and others to review plans and exercise lockdown and active-shooter protocols.

--Training for school resource and DARE officers. Corzine is proposing putting money into his next budget to modify curriculum that is under development for school resource officers and ensure that it includes training based on state guidelines and standards.

--Development of a school security Web site. The Department of Education will launch a site for parents and school personnel.

--Development of security programs for bus drivers. The state teachers' union and Office of Homeland Security have paired to design an awareness pilot program, which will be implemented on a test basis.

--Development of a governor's "Safe School" designation. The School Security Task Force will develop a recognition program for schools that have excelled in the implementation of school security guidelines.

--A greater commitment to gun safety. Corzine will ask the federal government and other states to use New Jersey's tough gun laws as a nationwide model to crack down on illegal guns.

Copyright (c) 2006, The Philadelphia Inquirer Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Business News.

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