The Senate Education Committee moved several pieces of legislation November 30.
Student Nutrition Bills
Among the bills approved were three pieces of legislation related to student nutrition.Â These include:
- S-2113 / A-3444 (Beach / Space / Caride / Quijano) – “The Smarter Lunchroom Act;” promotes healthy food choices in school cafeterias. This legislation requires the Commissioner of Education to make every effort to assist, guide, and support school districts, public schools, and nonpublic schools in planning, establishing, and implementing the strategies of The Smarter Lunchroom Movement (SLM). Strategies include highlighting fruit and other nutritional foods by placing them near the cash register and placing the most nutrient-filled entre first in the serving line and first on the menu board. The bill also requires the New Jersey Department of education to include info on SLM on their website NJSPA supports this measure
- S-3371 / A-4906 (Ruiz / Lampitt / Holley / Mosquera) – Requires public and nonpublic schools to notify students and parents of availability of summer meals programs and locations where meals are served. Specifically, the bill requires school districts to notify parents/guardians of the availability of, and criteria of eligibility for, the summer meals program and the locations in the local school district where the summer meals are available. Flyers are to be made available by the Â Department of Agriculture (by June 1) to help districts in providing notice. Additionally, schools could provide notice electronically. Â Districts are currently providing notice per a New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) broadcast / notice requirement.
- S-3372 / A-4908 (Ruiz / Lampitt / Holley / Mosquera) – Directs DOE to establish online applications for National School Lunch Program and school breakfast programs. This legislation would require the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the NJDOE, to develop and make available to each school district and nonprofit nonpublic school participating in the National School Lunch Program or in a school breakfast program, an Internet-based online school meal application for eligible students to participate in these programs. The Department of Agriculture currently maintains an online portal for this purpose. NJPSA worked with the bill sponsors to ensure the proper agency was noted under the bill.
All three bills have been approved by the lower house and will now move the full floor for consideration.
Child Abuse Prevention
In addition, the committee also approved legislation, S-2728 / S-3310 / A-3655 (Diegnan / Cruz-Perez / Turner / Mosquera / Jones / Holley), which requires boards of education to display information about child abuse hotline in each school. Under the bill, the information must be prominently displayed, give instructions to call 911 for emergencies and must include directions for accessing the department’s website for more information on reporting abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Currently the Department of Children and Families (DCF) provides free posters to schools in both English and Spanish. NJPSA worked with the sponsors to ensure the bills language allowed for ease in posting of the required signage.
Further, the committee approved legislation, S-3447 (Turner / Greenstein) which would require New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) to allow public high schools in same school district to enter into cooperative sports programs if schools are unable to field varsity teams individually, regardless of school size.
The legislation stems from current preclusion under NJSIAA’s Constitution which does not allow a Group 3 or higher school district to enter into cooperative sports programs for basketball, baseball, softball and spring track, and in football if one of the schools is classified as a Group III school. This bill requires the NJSIAA to allow the schools to enter into cooperative sports programs regardless of the sport or the member schools’ Group classification.
NJPSA is monitoring the legislation. The bill stems from an issue in West Windsor where the district was unable to field a football team at one of the high schools. NJPSA will keep you posted if and when this legislation moves forward.
Finally, the committee approved a bill, S-3559 / A-4457 (Caride / Quijano / Singleton) which would provide immunity to board of director members and employees of private schools for students with disabilities (PSSD) if they report incidents of bullying in compliance with school policy. The Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act, P.L.2002, c.83 (C.18A:37-13 et seq.), does not explicitly apply to approved private schools for students with disabilities acting under contract to provide educational services on behalf of New Jersey public school districts. However, State Board of Education regulations promulgated to effectuate this law do include these schools and require them to develop, adopt, and implement a policy prohibiting harassment, intimidation, or bullying on school grounds. This legislation would extend the immunity traditional school employees possess to PSSD employees in these instances. NJPSA is monitoring the legislation.