New Law Enhances School Emergency Planning Requirements for Students with Disabilities

January 17, 2024

On January 8, 2024, Governor Murphy signed legislation, P.L.2023, c.212 (A1174/S2057) to strengthen school district emergency planning to better ensure the safety and security of students with disabilities.

The amended emergency planning law for schools makes it explicit that schools must ensure that students with disabilities fully participate in school safety and security drills required by law. Further, annual training on school safety and security policies and procedures must incorporate information specific to the needs of students with disabilities.

Under the law, school district emergency planning must address these unique needs including mobility, sensory, medical, social, communication, emotional, regulatory, and decision-making support needs of these students. It further requires that training for school employees explain any modifications, accommodations, and services that are necessary as dictated by the students’ individualized education plans, individualized health care plans, 504 plans, or service plans.

The law applies to all New Jersey public schools and receiving schools, such as approved private schools for students with disabilities, and requires that such information be provided to any youth program operating on school grounds, even if the program is not sponsored by the school.

To align with the requirements for schools, the New Jersey Department of Education is required to ensure that state-level security drill guidance and training materials distributed to schools are strengthened to include information specific to the needs of students with disabilities in emergency situations and provide standard protocols and procedures for accommodating students with disabilities during drills and actual emergency situations.

As part of our mission to ensure safe and fulfilling lives for individuals with autism, Autism New Jersey advocated in support of the emergency planning bill for several months before the end of the 2022-2023 legislative session. We applaud Governor Murphy and the legislative sponsors, Senator Turner, Senator Greenstein, and Assemblywoman Quijano, as well as outgoing legislators, Assemblywoman Jasey and Assemblyman Benson for ensuring that students with disabilities are not left behind and prioritizing this legislation.

The Governor also signed legislation to form a School Safety and Security Task Force, P.L. 2023, c. 218 (S3079/A4977), which will study and develop recommendations to improve school safety and security, including strategies to ensure the needs of students with disabilities are reflected in all areas of emergency planning and response measures.