On Feb. 1, the New Jersey State Board of Education adopted updated School Ethics Commission regulations. The FAQ below informs board members and other school officials about the changes to the training requirements. Next week, School Board Notes will include a FAQ on the changes to the requirements for requesting advisory opinions in the new regulations.
When will the changes become effective?
The changes will become effective March 6, 2023, the date of publication in the New Jersey Register, which is the state’s official record of agency action.
- What are the new changes to the training requirements?
The new regulations require that new board members, charter and renaissance trustees complete the first-year training requirement within 90 days of being sworn in as board members. N.J.A.C. 6A:28-4.1(a). The New Jersey Department of Education says, “The proposed amendments will ensure that all board members and trustees understand, at the inception of their first terms, the ethical standards that must guide their behavior.” Please note that the 90-training requirement appears to apply to those who are filling a partial term or vacancy as well as those who are appointed/elected to a full term.
- Does the new 90-day requirement affect the deadline for completion of the other years of training?
No, there is nothing in the regulations to indicate that the 90-day requirement in the board member’s first year applies to the subsequent years of required training. Therefore, board members in the second, third and first year of subsequent terms will still have the entire year to complete the required training. N.J.A.C. 6A:28-4.1(b).
- If the member was sworn into office prior to Feb. 1, 2023, does the 90-day requirement apply?
For board, charter and renaissance members/trustees who were sworn into office prior to the effective date of these new requirements, they would still have one year to complete their training as that was the requirement when they were sworn in. The New Jersey School Boards Association encourages all board and trustee members to complete their training as soon as they are able.
- What happens if a board member or trustee does not complete the training within the required amount of time?
If a board member or charter or renaissance trustee fails to complete the required training in the requisite amount of time, such member or trustee may be placing their membership on the board in jeopardy. If there is noncompliance with the training requirements, the SEC will first issue an “order to show cause,” a notice to the noncompliant member that they may be penalized for failing to meet the training requirements without good cause. N.J.A.C. 6A:28-4.3(a).
- What are the penalties for failing to meet the training requirements?
There are a series of progressive penalties that the SEC will employ if a member does not comply with the training requirements. First, the SEC may censure the individual if the board member complies between the time the order to show cause is issued but before the SEC issues its initial decision on noncompliance. Next, if the member complies with the order between the time that the SEC issues its initial decision but before the commissioner of education issues their final decision, the member may be suspended for 30 days, provided they have provided written notice to the SEC and NJSBA of their completion of training. If the member has not provided written notice, then the member may be suspended for 60 days. The member may be removed from the board entirely if the board member does not comply by the time the commissioner of education issues their decision. N.J.A.C. 6A:28-4.3(b)(c)(d).
- What are the responsibilities of a board of education/trustees if a member is found to be noncompliant with the training requirement?
The board must read the SEC’s resolution adopting the commissioner of education’s penalty at its next regularly scheduled meeting and memorialize it in the minutes of the meeting. It must also send a copy of the minutes to the SEC. A board must also post the SEC resolution for a period of no less than 30 days in such places where public notices are posted. Finally, a copy of the SEC resolution must be placed on the school district, charter school or renaissance school project website, if available, for a period of no less than 30 days. N.J.A.C. 6A:28-4.3(e).
For more information about these new regulations, please contact the NJSBA Legal, Labor and Policy Services Department at 609-278-5279 or your board attorney.