Under legislation signed into law last week by Gov. Murphy, school districts can require students to carry identification cards while on field trips or other off-campus activities.

The bill, A-4342/S-2855 (P.L. 2019, c.57), permits each school district to implement a policy requiring all students to carry a school identification card issued by the district while the student is at any school-sponsored, off-campus activity including, but not limited to, field trips or interscholastic sports programs.  The bill directs the commissioner of education to develop guidelines concerning the information to be included on the ID card, such as the student’s name, photograph and current school year.

The bill also authorizes school districts to develop policies requiring the compilation of a list of students being transported by a school bus to any school-sponsored activity.  The list would be submitted to the school principal, or his or her designee, and maintained for use in the case of an emergency.

The measure was part of a bill package introduced in response to last year’s fatal bus accident on Route 80 involving students from the Paramus school district. The package was designed to enhance school bus safety and strengthen protections for students who ride school buses.  This bill is among several that have been signed into law since the Paramus incident, including a directive that newly manufactured school buses be equipped with three-point seat belts, and another that enhances driver physical fitness requirements.

The bill was first sent to Gov. Murphy’s desk last October and would have required students to carry identification cards at any off-campus activities, and it would have required districts to maintain student passenger lists.  However, the governor conditionally vetoed the bill, citing cost concerns. In his veto statement, he wrote, the “broad and mandatory nature…of this bill could be subject to a successful unfunded mandate challenge because the legislation does not authorize resources to offset the additional direct expenditures for affected school districts to implement its detailed provisions.”

The governor returned the bill to the Legislature with the recommendation that its provisions be permissive rather than mandatory.

While supportive of the bill’s intent, the NJSBA greatly appreciates the governor’s recognition of the financial constraints school districts face and supports the governor for maintaining local discretion in the bill he signed.

The measure goes into effect 30 days from the date of enactment, on July 2.