With the start of a new school year fast approaching, a growing number of school districts across New Jersey are deciding to hire armed security guards to protect students and teachers when they return to class next month.

Patrick Kissane, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Resource Officers, estimates that 40% of schools will either be using an active police officer, a recently retired police officer who can be employed as a Class 3 officer by the local police department, or another type of civilian security guard.

Many smaller municipalities in the Garden State have fewer options when it comes to school security, but that could soon be changing thanks to a measure, S3037 sponsored by state Sen. Vince Polistina, R-Atlantic.

More options for rural schools

“This legislation would allow for county sheriffs' offices to hire Class 3 officers, to put them in schools as school resource officers,” Polistina said.

He explained schools in more populated areas have bigger police departments that can either have an active officer or a Class 3 officer to provide security but “a lot of our rural school districts, some of these rural areas don’t have local police departments, this gives a County agency with the Sheriff’s Offices the ability to hire Class 3 officers.”

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He said having the opportunity to get a Class 3 officer for security will be helpful.

"It’s just another way to enhance security, where Sheriffs Offices can hire Class 3 officers and then those Class 3 officers can be in our rural schools where we don’t have police departments," Polistina said.

He said after the recent tragedy in Texas, school security is a huge issue in New Jersey.

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We need to be proactive

“Nobody wants to see those types of things happening but unfortunately they are and we’re trying to be proactive to make sure we are protecting our schools, protecting our children,” Polistina said.

“We’re just trying to come up with ideas where we can enhance school security and school safety.”

Polistina said the measure is co-sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Vin Gopal, D-Monmouth.

“Obviously protecting our children, protecting our schools is not a partisan issue,” he said.

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