In a standing room only meeting at the Statehouse Monday, Chairwoman Ruiz presided over a Senate Education Committee that considered several significant pieces of legislation.
A-665/S-2563 Requires each board of education to adopt policy establishing temperature control standards and guidelines for school district facilities.
This bill would require each board of education to adopt a policy establishing temperature control standards and guidelines for school district facilities. The policy must ensure, to the greatest extent feasible, that school buildings provide students with a temperature-controlled environment that is conducive to learning. That policy must: require that a staff member is designated in each school building in the district to monitor compliance with the standards and initiate permitted corrective action; establish a protocol to follow in instances where classroom temperatures are identified as being not conducive to learning; identify what temperature control measures are permitted in accordance with local building and fire codes; be informed by the Indoor Air Quality Standard established by the Department of Labor and Workforce Development; and require that corrective measures be addressed, where feasible, by action outlined in the Indoor Air Quality Standard. The bill further directs the Department of Education and the Department of Health to jointly develop guidance to assist school districts in establishing and implementing a policy concerning temperature control. This bill has already been passed by the General Assembly (75-2-0) and now awaits a vote by the full Senate.
S-491/A-4546 Requires public and nonpublic secondary schools to annually conduct written or verbal substance use screening on all students using a particular screening program.
This bill would require school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools to provide for an annual written or verbal substance use screening on each high school student. The screening will assess the student’s risk for substance abuse using the screening, brief intervention, and referral to treatment (SBIRT) program. If the student screens positive for potential substance misuse, the person administering the screening will be required to provide brief counseling using motivational interviewing and assist the student with referral to treatment options, if needed. The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families, using existing public and private training resources, will make available to school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools, training for personnel using the SBIRT program. Under the provisions of the bill, the parent or guardian of a student being screened must be given prior written notice of the screening and an opportunity to have the student opt out of the screening. The bill also includes a provision regarding the privacy of information collected during the screening. Statements made by a student during a screening are considered confidential information and cannot be disclosed by a person receiving the statement to any other person without the prior written consent of the student and the student’s parent or guardian, except in cases of immediate medical emergency or if disclosure is otherwise required by State law.
This bill was advanced by the Senate Education Committee by a vote of 5-1. It has been second-referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee, where is awaits a hearing. NJPSA has been an active participant of a working group that has been meeting on this issue and have recommended several amendments to this legislation. The Sponsor of the bill has assured us of a continued working relationship and an openness to amendments. We do not expect that the bill that was released from committee will be the final version that gets signed into law.
S-1176 Concerns speech rights of student journalists at public schools and public institutions of higher education.
This bill would guarantee certain freedom of expression rights for students in public schools and public institutions of higher education. The bill provides that a student at a public school (or public institution of higher ed) who gathers, compiles, writes, edits, photographs, records, or prepares information for dissemination in school-sponsored media has the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press, and it responsible for determining the news, opinion, feature, and advertising content of the school-sponsored media. The bill does not protect student expression that: (1) is libelous or slanderous; (2) constitutes an unwarranted invasion of privacy; (3) violates federal or State law; or (4) so incites students as to create a clear and present danger of the commission of an unlawful act, the violation of policies of the school district or institution, or the material and substantial disruption of the orderly operation of the school or institution. However, a school district may not authorize prior restraint of any school-sponsored media, except for the types of expression described in these categories. The bill requires school districts to adopt a written policy concerning student freedom of expression in accordance with the provisions of the bill by the 2020-2021 school year.
NJPSA testified in opposition to this bill, out of concern that the provisions of S-1173 would negate the valid role of the adults in the school setting to exercise some control over the content or tone of school-sponsored media. Citing a the U.S. Supreme Court decision that has applied for 20 years, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier, 484 U.S. 269, 273 (1988), NJPSA noted, schools and educators do have a role to play here in ensuring that the material is developmentally appropriate, does not negatively affect other students, individually or in groups, or does not unintentionally undermine the rights of other students. The Hazelwood decision balanced the freedom of expression rights of student journalists working on a school-sponsored newspaper, with the right of the school administration/district to exercise editorial control over the content and style of student speech. The Court upheld the administrator’s right to exercise editorial control in school-sponsored expressive activities, so long as their actions are reasonably related to pedagogical concerns and the educational mission of the school.
The bill was reported out of committee and is now on second reading in the Senate.
S-3759 Creates special education unit within the Office of Administrative Law; requires annual report.
This bill is part of the package of bills proposed as a result of the “Path to Progress” report. It would establish a unit within the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) dedicated to special education cases. The special education unit would consist of administrative law judges having expertise in special education law. The number of administrative law judges in the unit would be proportional to the number and complexity of special education cases referred to the OAL.
Under the bill, all contested cases concerning special education law referred to the OAL would be assigned to and adjudicated by the administrative law judges in the special education unit.
The bill directs the Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge of the OAL to prepare an annual report to the Governor and to the Legislature regarding: the number of special education cases referred to the special education unit during the reporting period; the number of special education cases resolved by the special education unit during the reporting period; the average number of cases pending before the special education unit during the reporting period; the average time to resolution of the special education cases; a brief description of the outcome of the resolved cases; and other relevant information and recommendations at the discretion of the Director and Chief Administrative Law Judge.
NJPSA supported this bill, as it has been a long term goal of our association to work on specialized training of judges and expediting due process procedures for special education cases. Creating a special education unit including judges with expertise in special education law will help to alleviate a perpetual backlog of cases, provide much needed support, and benefit students, families and districts alike. The bill was reported favorably by the committee and is now on second reading in the Senate.
S-3433 “Mallory’s Law”; revises provisions required in school district’s anti-bullying policy; provides for civil liability of parent of minor adjudicated delinquent for cyber-harassment or harassment; and increases certain fines against parents.
Under current law, all acts of harassment, intimidation, or bullying must be reported in writing to the school principal within two school days of when the school employee or contracted service provider witnessed or received reliable information that a student had been subject to harassment, intimidation, or bullying. This bill provides that the written report must be on a numbered form developed by the Department of Education. The principal will be responsible for immediately submitting the form to the superintendent of schools, the executive county superintendent, and to the parents or guardians of students involved in the alleged incident in accordance with federal and State law and regulations. Under the provisions of the bill, the form must be completed, even if a preliminary determination is made under the school district’s policy that the reported incident or complaint is a report outside the scope of the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying under the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act”. If a school district’s policy permits a preliminary determination to be made on a reported incident or complaint, the determination will be required to be made by a safe schools resource officer, if one has been assigned to the school by the board of education. The bill also requires a school district to provide a means for a parent or guardian to complete an online form to report an incident of harassment, intimidation, or bullying.
Pursuant to the provisions of the bill, the district’s anti-bullying policy must include specific consequences for a student who commits an act of harassment, intimidation or bullying. Under the bill, for the first act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying committed by a student, a copy of the results of the investigation will be placed in the student’s record and the student may be subject to discipline imposed by the superintendent; for the second act, a copy of the results of the investigation will be placed in the student’s record and the student will be subject to a plan of disciplinary action established by the superintendent; and for the third act, a copy of the results of the investigation will be placed in the student’s record, and the executive county superintendent will be informed and will impose the appropriate discipline and require the student, accompanied by a parent or guardian, to complete a class or training program to reduce the tendency toward harassment, intimidation or bullying behavior. The executive county superintendent will also notify the appropriate law enforcement official of a possible violation of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.
The bill also requires that if a safe schools resource officer has been assigned to a school, that individual must be appointed by the principal to the position of school anti-bullying specialist. Additionally, the bill requires that as part of the information provided by the superintendent of schools twice a year to the board of education regarding acts of violence, vandalism, and bullying which occurred during the previous reporting period, the superintendent will provide the board with information on the number of reports that were determined, pursuant to the district’s preliminary determination process, not to meet the statutory definition of bullying.
Currently, under the provisions of the cyber-harassment statute, the court may order a parent or guardian of a minor under the age of 16 who has been adjudicated delinquent of cyber-harassment to attend classes or training with the minor. Failure to comply with these conditions results in a disorderly persons offense and the imposition of a fine of not more than $25 for a first offense and not more than $100 for each subsequent offense. This bill would increase the monetary penalty against the parent or guardian for failure to comply with the class or training program as follows: the $25 fine for a first offense would be increased to $100; and the $100 fine for each subsequent offense would be increased to $500. In addition, civil liability may be imposed on a parent or guardian, having legal custody of the minor, who demonstrates a willful or wanton disregard in the exercise of the supervision and control of a minor adjudicated delinquent of cyber-harassment or harassment.
The bill, named Mallory’s Law, is in response to the tragic case of 12-year old Mallory Grossman who was subjected to unrelenting bullying at school and online leading up to her suicide. The bill attempts to address this issue by placing more stringent safeguards in the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.” The Senate Education Committee favorably reported the bill on Monday and on Thursday the bill was unanimously passed by the full Senate.
S-2442 Provides that student-athlete who sustains concussion must return to regular school activities prior to return to competition; requires school districts to implement five-step return-to-competition process.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed recommendations concerning a student-athlete’s return to sports and activities following a concussion or other head injury. According to the CDC, a student-athlete who sustains a concussion or other head injury should not return to competition or practice until he first returns to regular school activities and is no longer experiencing symptoms of the injury when conducting those activities. Once those conditions are met, the CDC recommend that the student-athlete engage in a graduated, five-step “Return-to-Play-Progression” to ensure the student-athlete’s safety and well-being. The centers’ “Return-to-Play-Progression” recommendations address time frames for participating in: (1) light aerobic activity; (2) moderate activity; (3) heavy, non-contact activity; (4) practice and full contact; and (5) competition. This bill provides that a student-athlete or cheerleader who sustains a concussion or other head injury is ineligible to return to competition or practice until he returns to regular school activities and is no longer experiencing symptoms of the injury when conducting those activities. Under the bill, the return of the student-athlete or cheerleader must be in accordance with the centers’ graduated, five-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations. The bill requires the Department of Education to revise its athletic head injury safety training program to include information on the centers’ graduated, five-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations. The bill also requires a school district to revise its written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries to include the centers’ graduated, five-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations. NJPSA supported this bill. It was reported favorably by the Committee on Monday and was unanimously passed by the full Senate on Thursday.
S-2443 Requires school districts which participate in statewide interscholastic sports programs to adopt New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association heat participation policy.
This bill requires each school district which is a member of the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association to adopt the association’s “Heat Participation Policy” for conducting practice or games in all sports during times of high heat or humidity. Under the bill, the association’s policy must address: the scheduling of practice or games during times of various heat and humidity levels; the ratio of time devoted to workouts to time allotted for rest and hydration during various heat and humidity levels; and the heat and humidity levels at which practice or games will be canceled. Under the bill, guidelines included in the association’s policy will provide a default policy to those responsible or sharing duties for making decisions concerning the implementation of modifications or cancellation of practices or games based on the presence of heat and humidity. The bill also requires these school districts to purchase a WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) tool to measure the heat stress in direct sunlight at the practice or game site. Heat stress consists of temperature, humidity, wind speed, the angle of the sun, and cloud coverage. NJPSA supported this bill. It was reported favorably by the Committee on Monday and was unanimously passed by the full Senate on Thursday.
S-2494 Requires certain schools to establish emergency action plans for responding to serious or potentially life-threatening sports-related injuries.
This bill requires that a public school district and a nonpublic school that includes any of the grades six through 12 establish and implement an emergency action plan for responding to a serious or potentially life-threatening sports-related injury. The plan will document the proper procedures to be followed when a student sustains a serious injury while participating in sports or other athletic activity. The plan will be specific to the activity site and is required to be developed in consultation with local emergency medical services personnel. Under the bill, the emergency action plan established by a school district or nonpublic school is required to include, but need not be limited to, the following: a list of the employees, team coaches, and licensed athletic trainers in each school who are trained in first aid or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation; identification of the employees, team coaches, or licensed athletic trainers in each school who will be responsible for carrying out the emergency action plan, with a description of their respective responsibilities; identification of the activity location or venue; identification of the equipment and supplies that may be needed to respond to the emergency, including their locations; and a description of the proper procedures to be followed after a student sustains a serious sports-related injury including, but not limited to, responding to the injured student, summoning emergency medical care, assisting emergency responders in getting to the injured student, and documenting the actions taken during the emergency. The bill requires that the emergency action plan be reviewed annually and updated as necessary. In addition, the plan must be rehearsed annually in each school by the individuals who will be responsible for executing the plan in an emergency. NJPSA supported this bill. It was reported favorably by the Committee on Monday and was unanimously passed by the full Senate on Thursday.
S-2896 Requires evaluation for, and abatement of, mold hazards in school buildings.
This bill would require that within 18 months after the effective date of the bill, and at least once every five years thereafter, the superintendent of each school district in the State, and the chief administrator of each private school and charter school within the State, would be required to inspect and evaluate the interior of each public, private, and charter school building under their supervision, as appropriate, for the presence of mold. The evaluation would be performed consistent with procedures that must be established by the Department of Health for mold hazard evaluation, assessment, and abatement of building interiors. The bill would also require that within two months after the evaluation of a school building interior, if there is a finding that a mold hazard exists, the superintendent of the school district, or the chief administrator of the private school or charter school, as appropriate, would be required to develop a plan and implementation schedule for mold hazard abatement consistent with the standards and procedures developed therefor. The bill would require that the mold hazard abatement be implemented within six months after the plan’s development. The bill would also require the superintendent of each school district in the State, as well as the chief administrator of each private school and charter school within the State, as appropriate, to make available to the parent or guardian of each student enrolled in the school, the results of the mold evaluation of the school building interior, and if necessary, the plan and implementation schedule for the mold hazard abatement of the school building. NJPSA supports the intent of the legislation, but expressed concerns that there is no source of funding attached to the bill. The Senate Education Committee favorably reported the bill, and it has been second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
S-3350 Establishes “New Jersey STEM Scholars Grant Pilot Program” in Department of Education.
This bill would establish a four-year “New Jersey STEM Scholars Grant Pilot Program” to provide grants to assist school districts in enhancing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs for students in increasing access to STEM education programs. Applications for grant awards under this pilot program would be submitted to the Commissioner of Education, who would allocate the awards on a competitive basis. The grant awards would be distributed so that school districts can build upon existing STEM education programs or create new education programs along three distinct areas of concentration, namely project-based learning, afterschool STEM, and out-of-school STEM. The bill would also establish within the Department of Education a fund to be known as the “STEM Scholars Grant Fund,” which would be used to provide grants to school districts under the pilot program. The fund would be annually credited with money appropriated by the Legislature, any moneys received by the State from corporate donors or other private sector support, and any federal funds which may become available for STEM-related activities. No State funds would be used to support a grant under the pilot program unless there is an appropriation for the pilot program in the annual appropriations act for that fiscal year. NJPSA supported this bill. The Senate Education Committee favorably reported the bill out of committee and it has now been second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
S-3817 Allocates Amistad Commission in but not of DOE; requires commission to elect chairperson and appoint executive director; requires public schools to include instruction on accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to American society.
The Amistad Commission was created by statute in order to coordinate educational and other programs on slavery in America and African-American history. Under the original statute, the Amistad Commission was established in the Executive Branch and allocated within the Department of State. The Amistad law, among other things, directs the Department of Education to assist the commission in developing curriculum guidelines regarding slavery and African-American history, distributing educational information and materials to school districts, and monitoring the inclusion of the materials and curricula in the State’s educational system. In June 2011, Governor Chris Christie issued Reorganization Plan No. 004-2011 to transfer the Amistad Commission from the Department of State to the Department of Education in order to improve efficiency and quality in the performance of the commission’s responsibilities. This bill amends the statute that created the Amistad Commission to provide that the commission is allocated in but not of the Department of Education, rather than within the Department of State. Notwithstanding this allocation, the commission will be independent of any supervision or control by the department. The bill also provides that State support for the operations of the Amistad Commission will be appropriated by the Legislature to the commission through a separate line item in the annual appropriations act.
Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education will serve as a voting member of the commission, and the Secretary of State will no longer be a member of the commission. The bill directs the commission to annually elect a chairperson and a vice-chairperson from among its members, and provides that the commission will meet upon the call of the chairperson or a majority of its members. The bill requires the commission to appoint an executive director who is qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office. The bill requires the commission to approve all Amistad personnel job descriptions and all individuals recommended for employment by the commission’s executive director. The bill directs the Department of Education to provide any additional staff deemed necessary by the commission. It is the legislation’s intent that these changes to the Amistad law will permit the Amistad Commission to maintain its independence and ensure that the resources of the Department of Education are made available for the implementation of the law and the Amistad Commission’s mission. In addition, the bill would supplement existing law to require all boards of education to include instruction that infuses into all courses on the United States, the centuries of accomplishments by African Americans in the building and development of America including, but not limited to, the areas of industry, the professions, local communities, culture, arts, and the sciences. The instruction must enable students to know and understand the nation’s heritage of slavery and freedom and the contributions of African Americans to all areas of American society throughout history. The instruction must also emphasize the personal responsibility of each citizen to fight racism and hatred and to uphold the national ideals of freedom and justice. The bill directs the Department of Education to work with the Amistad Commission to ensure that the assessment tools for New Jersey schools are inclusive of the curricular requirements established under the bill.
NJPSA supported this bill. It was reported favorably by the Committee on Monday and was unanimously passed by the full Senate on Thursday.
S-3645 Requires school districts to provide feminine hygiene products in certain public schools and requires State to pay costs.
This bill requires school districts to ensure that students in schools educating students in grades 6 through 12, or any combination thereof, in which 40 percent or more of their students reside in households with a household income at or below the most recent federal poverty guidelines multiplied by 1.85, have direct access to feminine hygiene products in at least 50 percent of the school bathrooms free of charge. Any costs incurred by a school district in complying with the provisions of this bill will be borne by the State. For purposes of this bill, “feminine hygiene products” mean tampons and sanitary napkins. The bill was reported favorably by the committee, and was second referenced to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee.
AJR-180/SJR-112 Designates February in each year as “Career and Technical Education Month” in New Jersey.
This joint resolution designates the month of February each year as “Career and Technical Education Month” in New Jersey in order to recognize and promote the many benefits of career and technical education in this State. The joint resolution requests the Governor to annually issue a proclamation calling upon students, parents, and other citizens of the State to learn more about career and technical education, county vocational-technical school programs, and well-paying career pathways that can be launched with an industry credential or a technical degree. The proclamation will also call upon New Jersey employers to become active partners with county vocational-technical schools to align curriculum with their workforce needs and provide meaningful work-based learning opportunities to students. NJPSA supported this resolution and it was reported favorably by the committee and awaits a vote by the full Senate.
Initially assigned to the Senate Education Committee, the following bill was transferred to and heard by the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee:
S-2660/A-4098 Establishes grant program and tuition reimbursement program for certain teachers of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics; appropriates $5 million to DOE.
This bill establishes a salary reimbursement program that allows nonpublic schools to receive reimbursement for the salaries of certain teachers employed by the school who teach science, mathematics, or technology in any of the grades three through 12.
To be eligible for salary reimbursement, the teacher must either: (1) hold a valid certificate to teach in the public schools of New Jersey; (2) hold a master’s degree or Ph.D. in science, mathematics, technology, or education; or (3) hold a bachelor’s degree in science, mathematics, technology, or education and be currently enrolled in a master’s or Ph.D. program in science, mathematics, technology, or education within five years from the later of the effective date of this act or the start date of employment with the nonpublic school.
Under the bill, nonpublic schools seeking reimbursement for an eligible teacher’s salary will submit an application to the Commissioner of Education in accordance with procedures prescribed by the commissioner. The amount of reimbursement for an eligible teacher will be the lesser of: (1) the eligible teacher’s actual salary; or (2) the average comparable teacher salary, per subject area, of public school teachers in the school district in which the nonpublic school is located, multiplied by the percentage of full-time equivalent secular instructional hours completed in the school day per subject area. No reimbursement will be provided for an eligible teacher, however, if the teacher provides non-secular instruction in any capacity.
Under the bill, if the total reimbursements requested from nonpublic schools exceed the funds appropriated or otherwise made available for the program, each applicant will be reimbursed an amount equal to the percentage that each applicant represents to the total of all applications submitted. It was reported favorably by the Senate Budget Committee on Monday and was passed by the full Senate on Thursday by a vote of 33-1.