The Senate Education Committee met January 12, moving a number of measures affecting students and schools.
S-367 / A-2353 (Codey / Turner / Vainieri Huttle / Jasey / Mukherji) – Establishes measures to deter steroid use among students; appropriates $45,000 to DOE for New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance enhancing substances.
The bill implements the recommendations of the December 2005 report of the Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention. Specifically, the bill requires the Department of Education and the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to work jointly to develop and implement, by the 2014-2015 school year, a program of random steroid testing of student-athletes who qualify to compete in championship tournaments sanctioned by the association.
Currently, the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association randomly tests students who make it to state championships for the use of steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs. The bill would expand the program to test other athletes and set aside an additional $45,000 in the state budget for that purpose. Gov. Chris Christie conditionally vetoed the measure last session because he said he was opposed supplemental appropriations to the budget.
In addition, the bill requires coaches to incorporate into the team’s training activities a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids and performance enhancing supplements, alcohol, and drugs, and to promote healthy nutrition and exercise. NJPSA supports this legislation.
S-1910 (Addiego) – Establishes Task Force on Safety in School Transportation.
The legislation establishes the Task Force on Safety in School Transportation. Under the bill, the task force is charged with studying issues associated with student safety in school transportation. Specifically, the task force will:
- review existing State laws, regulations, and programs that address school bus safety and make recommendations for their improvement, including any recommendations necessary to ensure that the pedestrian safety record is routinely reviewed by an appropriate State office;
- examine the possibility of requiring a State department or office to conduct a biannual review of all aspects of school bus safety and to issue recommendations for additional action or oversight, as appropriate;
- review whether the recommendations of the Transportation Task Force of the Commission on Business Efficiency of the Public Schools, included in the 2006 report “Finding the Road: Selected Issues in New Jersey Pupil Transportation,” have been implemented, and identify any barriers to their full implementation;
- develop a plan to phase in any safety measures recommended by the task force through retrofitting and prospective vehicle purchases and identify the potential application of vehicle sensor technology to improve school bus safety;
- identify best practices for the designation of school bus stops;
- identify strategies that support safe pedestrian behavior by students between their homes and their bus stops;
- identify safety protocols to be followed by school bus drivers and school bus aides;
- develop recommendations to curb illegal passing of school buses; and
- identify if there is a need for more public education programs that promote school bus safety.
The task force will consist of 17 members, including an NJPSA member, as well as the Commissioner of Education, ex officio, or a designee; the Commissioner of Transportation, ex officio, or a designee; the Chief Administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, ex officio, or a designee; the Director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety, ex officio, or a designee; and 13 members to be appointed by the Governor. The task force must present a report of its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Legislature no later than 12 months after its organization and will cease to exist upon submitting its report.
Both the New Jersey Catholic School Conference and Jewish Federation requested they be added to the taskforce. The Senate Education Chair indicated that she would reach out to the sponsor to inquire into the request. NJPSA supports the measure.
S-2348 (Ruiz / Diegnan) – Includes students who participate in school intramural sports programs in the student-athlete head injury safety program.
Under current law, the Department of Education was required to develop and implement, by the 2011-2012 school year, a head injury safety training program on the recognition of the symptoms of head injuries and the appropriate amount of time to delay the return to competition of a student who suffers a head injury. The program must be completed by school physicians, coaches, and athletic trainers involved in public or nonpublic school interscholastic sports programs and cheerleading programs. The law also required school districts to develop a written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries among student-athletes and cheerleaders. Finally, the law provides that students who participate in interscholastic sports programs or cheerleading programs who sustain or are suspected of having sustained a concussion or other head injury while engaged in a sports competition or practice must be immediately removed from the competition or practice and may not return to competition or practice until evaluated and cleared by a physician. This legislation amends the law to provide that students participating in intramural sports programs organized by the school will be included in the student-athlete head injury safety program, and that the coaches of intramural sports programs must also complete the safety training program. NJPSA supports this bill.
S-2398 (Bateman / Allen) – Requires school district to adopt policy allowing students in grades 9 through 12 who participate in certain interscholastic extracurricular activities to earn varsity letter.
This legislation permits a school district that includes any of the grades 9 through 12 to adopt a policy to provide that a student enrolled in those grades who participates in any school-sponsored, interscholastic extracurricular activity that includes competitions in which the student competes against students enrolled in schools outside of the district may be eligible to earn a varsity letter awarded by the district. The committee amended the bill to clarify that it is not to be construed to require a school district to award a varsity letter or to establish any school-sponsored, interscholastic extracurricular activity. NJPSA supports the legislation as amended.
S-2491 / A-4019 (Cruz-Perez / Madden / Mazzeo / Mukherji / Andrzejczak) – Permits eligible students who are members of United States Armed Forces to wear military uniform at high school graduation.
The bill requires school districts to allow eligible students to wear a dress uniform issued by the United States Armed Forces while participating in their high school graduation ceremony. Under the bill, a student will be permitted to wear a dress uniform at graduation if: (1) the student has fulfilled all State and local requirements for receiving a high school diploma and is otherwise eligible to participate in the high school graduation ceremony; and (2) the student has completed basic training for, and is an active member of, a branch of the United States Armed Forces. NJPSA supports the legislation.
S-2635 (Ruiz / Bateman) – Requires certain schools to maintain supply of opioid antidotes and permits emergency administration of opioid antidote by school nurse or trained employee.
This bill would require a board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school to develop a policy, pursuant to Department of Education guidelines, for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who is experiencing an opioid overdose.
The policy will:
- require a school that includes any of the grades nine through 12, and permit any other school, to obtain a standing order for opioid antidotes and to maintain a supply of opioid antidotes in a secure and easily accessible location; and
- permit the school nurse or trained employees to administer an opioid antidote to any student or staff member whom the nurse or trained employee in good faith believes is experiencing an opioid overdose.
The opioid antidotes must be accessible in the school during regular school hours and during school-sponsored functions that take place in the school or on school grounds adjacent to the school building. A board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school may, in its discretion, make opioid antidotes accessible during school-sponsored functions that take place off school grounds.
Under the policy, the school nurse will have the primary responsibility for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote. The board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school will designate additional employees who volunteer to administer an opioid antidote in the event that a student or staff member experiences an opioid overdose when the nurse is not physically present at the scene.
The bill directs the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Human Services and appropriate medical experts, to establish guidelines for school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools in developing their policies for the administration of opioid antidotes. The guidelines will require that each school nurse, and each employee designated by the board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a nonpublic school pursuant to the bill’s provisions, receive training on standardized protocols for the administration of an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who experiences an opioid overdose. The training will include the overdose prevention information described in subsection a. of section 5 of the “Overdose Prevention Act,” P.L.2013, c.46 (C.24:6J-5).
The bill provides immunity from liability for school nurses and other employees or agents of a board of education, charter school, or nonpublic school, and prescribers of opioid antidotes for a school, for good faith acts or omissions consistent with the bill’s provisions. The bill also stipulates that school districts may enter into shared services arrangements for the provision of opioid antidotes; and that funds made available pursuant to P.L.1991, c.226 (C.18A:40-23 et seq.) may be used in nonpublic schools to comply with the provisions of the bill.
In addition, the bill amends the “Overdose Prevention Act,” P.L.2013, c.46 (C.24:6J-1 et seq.), to:
- include schools, school districts, and school nurses among the recipients that may be prescribed opioid antidotes through a standing order; and
- provide that immunity from liability for opioid antidote administration in accordance with the Overdose Prevention Act will be applicable to schools, school districts, school nurses, and other employees or agents of a board of education, charter school, or nonpublic school who administer, or permit the administration of, opioid antidotes in good faith under the provisions of the bill.
NJPSA testified in support of the measure and urged the Legislature, Administration, Department of Education and stakeholders to work together to successfully implement this critical initiative.
Other Legislation Approved
S-2759 (Sarlo) – Requires school districts to maintain and pay premiums for student accident insurance.
Under current law, a school district may arrange for and maintain accident insurance to provide for payments to pupils for bodily injury sustained by the pupil as a result of participation in sports programs or regular curricular or extracurricular programs. Also under existing law, a school district may pay the premiums for that coverage or may require that each pupil’s parent or guardian pay a proportionate share of the premium. These accident insurance policies are usually secondary insurance in that they cover the medical costs that are not completely covered by the insurance held by the pupil’s parent or guardian.
This bill will require school districts to maintain and pay the premiums for accident insurance to cover the costs of bodily injury sustained by pupils participating in an interscholastic athletics program or intramural sports program or sustained while participating in any other extracurricular program or regular curricular program. The bill repeals N.J.S.A. 18A:43-2 which allows a school district to require that a pupil’s parent or guardian pay a proportionate share of the premium of accident insurance maintained by the school district. Pupils who participate in interscholastic athletics programs, intramural sports programs, and other extracurricular programs or regular curricular programs are exposed to the risk to bodily injury, and school districts have a responsibility to provide adequate insurance protection for their pupils in the event of an injury.
S-2108 / A-3240 (Greenstein / Diegnan / Benson / Muoio / Gusciora) – Authorizes students in State schools to operate State vehicles for driver education and provides protection for such activity under tort claims act.
This bill provides that a student enrolled in a State school may operate a State vehicle for purposes of behind-the-wheel instruction as part of the school’s regular curriculum driver education course. The bill also extends to such students the protections afforded to a State employee under the “New Jersey Tort Claims Act,” N.J.S.59:1-1 et seq., when the student is operating a State vehicle for such purpose.