Governor Chris Christie signed legislation, S-2081 / A-3790 (Ruiz, Turner, Vainieri Huttle, Wimberly), which limits expulsions and suspensions for students in preschool through grade 2 with certain exceptions. The new law also requires early detection and prevention programs for behavioral issues in preschool through grade 2. The new law is effective the beginning of this school year.
Specifically, the new law amends N.J.S.A. 18A:36A-9 to place limits on expulsions for students enrolled in preschool through second grade in a school district or charter school. Under the new law, students in kindergarten through second grade may not be expelled or suspended from school, except as provided pursuant to the “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act,” P.L.1995, c.127 (C.18A:37-7 et seq.). The law also prohibits out-of-school suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade, except when the suspension is based on conduct that is of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others.
In addition, the new law requires school districts and charter schools to implement an early detection and prevention program to identify students in preschool through grade two who are experiencing behavioral or disciplinary problems, and provide behavioral supports for these students, which may include, but need not be limited to, remediation of problem behaviors, positive reinforcements, supportive interventions, and referral services. An early detection and prevention program may be incorporated into the system of intervention and referral services that is required to be established in each school under current State Board of Education regulations at N.J.A.C.6A:16-8.1 to 8.2.
NJPSA explained throughout the legislative process that the policy codified by the bill is consistent with New Jersey school policy generally. As such, NJPSA supports the intent of the bill. It is our understanding that the bill stems from federal advocacy efforts.