New Law Alert:  Governor Takes Action on Legislation Requiring Mental Health Education and Testing A Later Start Time for High School Students

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P.L.2019, c.222 (S-2861) requires all New Jersey public schools to include mental health instruction in grades K through 12 health curriculums. The bill aims to enhance student understanding, attitudes, and behaviors related to mental health to promote well-being and human dignity. The instruction must be adapted to the age and understanding of the students. Under this measure, the State Board of Education must review and update the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education to ensure the incorporation of instruction in mental health in an appropriate place in the curriculum.  In its review, the State board shall consult with mental health experts including the Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services. This act takes effect immediately and applies to the 2020-2021 school year.

P.L.2019, c.224 (S-3160) establishes a pilot program to test how shifting start times for high school students will impact districts overall, including how transportation and extracurricular activities may be impacted. The Commissioner of Education will select five districts representing suburban, urban and rural areas of the state.  Upon conclusion of the pilot the Commissioner will submit a report to the Governor and Legislature detailing the number of students who participated in the pilot program; the start times of the school day for the high school students who participated in the program before and after participation in the pilot program; the impact the program has had on reducing tardiness and absenteeism; an assessment of the health, academic, and safety benefits associated with establishing later start times; an evaluation of any potential negative impacts on school districts and families that may be associated with a later start time; and the commissioner’s recommendation on the adoption of later school start times for all high school students.