Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Column 1: Senator Wants All Classroom Doors To Lock From Inside

By Scott Goldstein

New Jersey hasn’t had a school shooting tragedy like Columbine and Virginia Tech, but one state senator isn’t taking that for granted.
Sen. Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex) said Aug. 21 she will introduce legislation this fall that would require all schools and colleges in New Jersey to install locks on the inside of all classroom doors.
"Many Virginia Tech students hid in their classrooms," Buono said. "A locked door could have discouraged the shooter from attempting to enter the classrooms, preventing numerous deaths. While our state has not experienced such a tragedy, we must not become complacent, believing it can't happen here."
Buono said the measure would add "a layer of protection that security cameras and metal protectors do not provide."
Some 17% of students nationwide reported carrying a gun or knife, according to a survey cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And incidents involving guns and knives in New Jersey’s public schools are on the rise, according to a report by the state Department of Education, Buono’s office said.
Investigators say interior locks may have saved students’ lives during the 2005 school shooting at the Red Lake Indian Reservation in Minnesota. The teen shooter there killed a security guard, a teacher and five students, but he failed to get into several classrooms because the doors were locked from the inside.
The bill would require public and private schools to install locks on the inside of any classroom door within six months of the bill’s enactment, with costs covered by the state, Buono said. "The cost for the installation of interior locks would be minimal," she said. "But the benefit would greatly outweigh any cost."

Corzine orders Internet Training For Teachers and Administrators
Gov. Jon Corzine wants teachers and administrators in all New Jersey schools to be trained this fall on Internet safety, including on the dangers of adults exploiting children. He asked Attorney General Anne Milgram and Education Commissioner Lucille Davy to develop Internet safety programs for school officials.
The training is expected to begin this month. "Too many unfortunate opportunities exist for adults to exploit children through the use of the Internet or for children to otherwise experience dangerous situations as a result of the doors that technology has opened," Corzine wrote in a letter to Milgram and Davy.
Some 71 percent of teens reported receiving messages online from someone they don’t know and 14 percent of 13- to17-year olds have actually had face-to-face meetings with a person they had only known online, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office previously announced 141 sex offenders convicted in the Garden State had active profiles on the social networking Web site MySpace, which is popular with teens. The New Jersey group was part of 7,000 registered sex offenders whose names were handed over by the owner of MySpace, to law enforcement nationwide.

Cameras on Traffic Lights Could Be Next
A bill that would allow towns to place cameras on traffic signals to catch motorists driving through red lights may be considered by the state Legislature when it reconvenes this fall (likely after the November elections).
The bill (S-2123)--advanced by the Senate Transportation in March --would set up a pilot program with cameras installed at intersections that have frequent violations in two yet-to-be-determined towns.
The cameras must be able to provide clear, color images of vehicles running red lights, the bill says. And the images must clearly reveal the license plate and the make and model of the automobile.
Violators would be fined up to $25 and those who don’t pay could have their driving license suspended. Both the owner of the vehicle and the driver would be responsible for the violation. Owners, however, would not be responsible if they can show the vehicle was used without their consent.
More than 100 communities nationwide use cameras at traffic lights, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
At the end of an 18-month test, the Department of Transportation would provide a report revealing the increases and decreases in the number of accidents and violations at the intersections.
The League of Municipalities, a lobbying group representing town councils, supports the bill and prefers the pilot program was open to more towns. However, critics point to a study by the U.S. Department of Transportation suggesting rear-end crashes increase in cities with red-light cameras because motorists stop abruptly at yellow lights to avoid tickets.

The Governor Is Not the Highest Salaried State Official
One of the reasons New Jersey is an expensive place to live is its layers of government. A report by the state Office of Inspector General (Aug. 20) shows that at least 40 employees of state authorities, commissions and public universities get salaries that are higher than the $175,000 salary offered to the governor.
William F. Owen, the president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is paid $570,000 a year. Richard R. Sarles, executive director of New Jersey Transit, gets $252,000 per year and Bryan J. Christiansen, executive director fo the Passaic Valley Sewage Commission, earns $245, 289 per year.
Incidentally, Gov. Jon Corzine, a multi-millionaire, waves his salary and is paid $1 per year.
The report does not suggest the salaries are out of line. But it does point out there is no central source of public information collecting the wide range of wages and benefits that employees of authorities, commissions and universities receive.
Other high-paid employees include George R. Zoffinger, president and CEO of the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority, who makes $195,000 per year; Jeffrey Vasser, executive director of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority, $179, 691; and Caren S. Franzini, CEO of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, $176,000.

Scott Goldstein is a syndicated columnist whose column appears in weekly newspapers statewide. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2007 by Scott Goldstein