The Senate Education Committee considered the following bills when it met on Thursday, Jan. 12:

A2353/S367 – This bill appropriates $45,000 to the state Department of Education for New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association testing of student-athletes for steroids and other performance-enhancing substances. This bill establishes measures to deter the use of steroids and performance-enhancing supplements among the state’s middle school and high school students, and implements the recommendations of the December 2005 report of the Governor’s Task Force on Steroid Use and Prevention.

Under the bill’s provisions, any person who coaches a public school district or non-public school interscholastic sport, dance, or cheerleading team must incorporate into the team’s training activities a gender-specific program designed to reduce the use of steroids and performance-enhancing supplements, alcohol, and drugs; and to promote healthy nutrition and exercise. The program must have a team-centered design that provides a non-stigmatizing atmosphere and includes gender-specific content to address the risks of substance abuse that are unique to male and female adolescents. The program developed by the coach must be submitted to the athletic director of the school district or non-public school for approval.

Additionally, the bill establishes the third week in September as “Steroid Awareness Week” in New Jersey and requires school districts to observe this week by organizing activities to raise awareness of the hazards of using steroids and performance-enhancing supplements. The bill now heads to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration. NJSBA supports the legislation.

A4019/S2491 – This measure permits eligible students who are members of United States Armed Forces to wear military uniform at high school graduation. This bill requires school districts to allow eligible students to wear a dress uniform issued by the United States Armed Forces while participating in their high school graduation ceremony. Under the bill, a student will be permitted to wear a dress uniform at graduation if: (1) the student has fulfilled all state and local requirements for receiving a high school diploma and is otherwise eligible to participate in the high school graduation ceremony; and (2) the student has completed basic training for, and is an active member of, a branch of the United States Armed Forces.

S1910 – This bill establishes a Task Force on Safety in School Transportation.  The task force will:

  1. Review existing state laws, regulations, and programs that address school bus safety and make recommendations for their improvement, including any recommendations necessary to ensure that the pedestrian safety record is routinely reviewed by an appropriate state office;
  2. Examine the possibility of requiring a state department or office to conduct a biannual review of all aspects of school bus safety and to issue recommendations for additional action or oversight, as appropriate;
  3. Review whether the recommendations of the Transportation Task Force of the Commission on Business Efficiency of the Public Schools, included in the 2006 report “Finding the Road: Selected Issues in New Jersey Pupil Transportation,” have been implemented, and identify any barriers to their full implementation;
  4. Develop a plan to phase in any safety measures recommended by the task force through retrofitting and prospective vehicle purchases, and identify the potential application of vehicle sensor technology to improve school bus safety;
  5. Identify best practices for the designation of school bus stops;
  6. Identify strategies that support safe pedestrian behavior by students between their homes and their bus stops;
  7. Identify safety protocols to be followed by school bus drivers and school bus aides;
  8. Develop recommendations to curb illegal passing of school buses; and
  9. Identify whether there is a need for more public education programs that promote school bus safety.

The task force shall consist of 17 members, including the commissioner of education, ex officio, or a designee; the commissioner of transportation, ex-officio, or a designee; the chief administrator of the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, ex officio, or a designee; the director of the Division of Highway Traffic Safety in the Department of Law and Public Safety, ex officio, or a designee; and 13 members to be appointed by the governor, including: one school district transportation coordinator; one representative of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators, one representative of the New Jersey Education Association, one representative of the New Jersey School Boards Association, one representative of the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, one representative of the New Jersey Association of School Business Officials; one representative of the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association; one representative of the School Transportation Supervisors of New Jersey; three parents or guardians of students, including at least one parent of a student receiving special education services; one public member who shall have knowledge and expertise in ensuring safety in school transportation; and one public member who shall be an expert on the safety equipment available in school transportation vehicles. NJSBA supports the bill.

S2348 – This bill amends the law to provide that students participating in intramural sports programs organized by the school will be included in the student-athlete head injury safety program, and that the coaches of intramural sports programs must also complete the safety training program. NJSBA supports the bill.

S2398 – This bill permits a school district that includes any of the grades 9 through 12 to adopt a policy to provide that a student enrolled in those grades who participates in any school-sponsored, interscholastic extracurricular activity that includes competitions in which the student competes against students enrolled in schools outside of the district may be eligible to earn a varsity letter awarded by the district. The bill heads to the full Senate for consideration.

S2635 – This bill would require a board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school to develop a policy, pursuant to state Department of Education guidelines, for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote to a student or staff member who is experiencing an opioid overdose. The policy will: (1) require a school that includes any of the grades 9-12, and permit any other school, to obtain a standing order for opioid antidotes and to maintain a supply of opioid antidotes in a secure and easily accessible location; and (2) permit the school nurse or trained employees to administer an opioid antidote to any student or staff member whom the nurse or trained employee in good faith believes is experiencing an opioid overdose. The opioid antidotes must be accessible in the school during regular school hours and during school-sponsored functions that take place in the school or on school grounds adjacent to the school building. A board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a non-public school may, in its discretion, make opioid antidotes accessible during school-sponsored functions that take place off school grounds. Under the policy, the school nurse will have the primary responsibility for the emergency administration of an opioid antidote. The board of education, board of trustees of a charter school, or chief school administrator of a non-public school will designate additional employees who volunteer to administer an opioid antidote in the event that a student or staff member experiences an opioid overdose when the nurse is not physically present at the scene. The bill next goes to the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee for consideration. NJSBA supports the bill.

S2759 – This bill will require school districts to maintain and pay the premiums for accident insurance to cover the costs of bodily injury sustained by pupils participating in an interscholastic athletics program or intramural sports program or sustained while participating in any other extracurricular program or regular curricular program. The bill repeals current law which allows a school district to require that a pupil’s parent or guardian pay a proportionate share of the premium of accident insurance maintained by the school district. NJSBA raised concerns about the mandatory nature of the bill and the cost it could have to local districts.

S2819 This bill would establish a non-lapsing revolving fund in the Department of Agriculture to be known as the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund.” Monies in the “Nourishing Young Minds Initiative Fund” would be used by the Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the Department of Education, to provide support and funding to child food and nutrition programs in the state, which would include:

1. Funding outreach and programmatic support by the Department of Agriculture, Department of Education, or community-based organizations;

2. Providing small grants to fund one-time startup or expansion costs of “breakfast after the bell” programs; and

3. Providing small grants to fund one-time start-up or expansion costs of summer nutrition programs.

Funding would be prioritized for districts or schools with the highest number of eligible students and lowest participation in the school breakfast program. NJSBA supports the bill.

The Senate State Government Committee met and considered S1297 and S1990 which would permit two or more candidates for the office of member of a board of education who seek election at the annual school election held in either April or November of each year to circulate a nominating petition jointly and to be bracketed together for the same term. These bills now head to the full Senate for a floor vote.

For further information on these bills or any other legislative initiatives, please contact the NJSBA Governmental Relations Department at (609) 278-5213.