On Friday, July 19, Gov. Phil Murphy took action on over two dozen bills and resolutions, including several that will directly affect the state’s public school districts. The following bills were signed in addition to the repeal of the superintendent salary cap, which the governor also approved on Friday.

Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness A-769/S-1130 (P.L.2019, c.185) requires each school district to incorporate age-appropriate sexual abuse/assault awareness and prevention education in grades preschool through 12. The bill directs the New Jersey Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the New Jersey Coalition Against Sexual Assault; Prevent Child Abuse New Jersey; the New Jersey Children’s Alliance, and other entities with relevant expertise, to develop age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources. The commissioner would provide these materials to school districts to implement the requirement. The bill also provides that a teaching staff member may satisfy in each professional development cycle one or more hours of the professional development requirement established by the State Board of Education by participating in training programs on sexual abuse/assault awareness and prevention.

NJSBA supports the measure, which goes into effect in the 2019-2020 school year.

Child Trafficking Awareness and Prevention A-1428/S-2653 (P.L.2019, c.189) requires the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE), in consultation with the attorney general and the Department of Children and Families, to develop and distribute to school districts guidelines concerning child trafficking.  The guidelines would provide direction for schools concerning awareness and prevention of child trafficking.  In addition, the bill requires the commissioner of education to provide school districts with guidance and resources about professional development opportunities for school staff to aid their awareness of child trafficking.

NJSBA supports the bill, which went into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.

Health/Phys Ed Endorsement Requirement S-858/A-674 (P.L.2019, c.171) requires that teachers appointed to teach health, health and physical education, or physical education in grades kindergarten through six possess the appropriate endorsement to their instructional certificate. Under existing state regulations, an elementary school teacher is not required to have a specific endorsement to teach these subjects.

The bill includes a “grandfather” provision, which will permit any teacher who has obtained an elementary school endorsement prior to the bill’s effective date to continue teaching health and/or physical education without obtaining the appropriate endorsements in those subject areas. The new law will also permit an individual who holds a school nurse endorsement to teach health in elementary schools. In addition, the endorsement requirement would not apply to a person who teaches in a Schools Development Authority (SDA) district (formerly known as an Abbott district). It would not apply to kindergarten students under a contract between the SDA district and a licensed child care center.

The law goes into effect in the 2019-2020 school year.

Child Abuse Hotline  S-2489/A-425 (P.L.2019, c.178) requires a board of education to prominently display information about the N.J. Department of Children and Families’ State Central Registry, a toll-free hotline for reporting child abuse, in each school building. The information must give instructions to call 911 for emergencies and must include directions for accessing the department’s website or social media platforms for more information on reporting abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Under the bill, the information is required to be in a format and language that is clear, simple, and understandable. The information must be on a poster and displayed at each school in at least one high-traffic, highly and clearly visible public area that is readily accessible to, and widely used by students.

NJSBA supports the measure.  The new posting requirement goes into effect 30 days following the governor’s approval.

New Anti-Bullying Task Force S-2575/A-4848 (P.L.2019, c.179) establishes an 11-member task force to examine, evaluate, and make recommendations regarding the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act.”  The task force will examine any unintended consequences resulting from implementation of the act and its regulations including, but not limited to, impacts of the law on athletic coaches; and present any recommendations deemed necessary and appropriate to modify or update the “Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act” and its implementing regulations. The group will hold at least one public hearing during the course of its work and will invite the participation of students and families who have experienced bullying.

Eight members of the task force will have a background or special knowledge of the legal, policy, educational, social, or psychological aspects of bullying in public schools. The chairperson of the Anti-Bullying Task Force, created pursuant to a 2012 law, will serve as one of the eleven members.  A family member of a student who has experienced bullying and a student over the age of 17 who personally has experienced bullying will fill the two remaining slots.

NJSBA supports the legislation, which took effect immediately.  Appointments are to be made within 30 days, and the task force is directed to organize within 30 days following such appointments. The task force will then have 180 days to submit its report and findings to the Legislature and governor.

Retired, Interim Superintendents’ Contracts S-3899/A-5375 (P.L.2019, c.184) modifies an existing statutory exception to the re-enrollment requirement for certain retired members of the teachers’ pension fund (TPAF).  It allows a TPAF retiree to be employed, without re-enrollment in TPAF, by a board of education as a certificated superintendent or administrator on a contractual basis for a period that exceeds two years when the commissioner of education determines that it is in the “best interests of the school district.”

Under existing state law, if a TPAF retiree subsequently became employed again in a position which makes the retiree eligible to be a member of TPAF, the retiree is required to re-enroll in the retirement system and the payment of any retirement allowance ceases.  That re-enrollment requirement, however, does not apply to a retiree who is a certificated superintendent or a certificated administrator who becomes employed by the NJDOE in a position of critical need. It also does not apply to a retiree who becomes employed by a board of education as a certificated superintendent or administrator on a contractual basis for no longer than one year and after 120 days of retirement if the contract is with the former employer.  A re-employed retiree could renew a contract for one additional year, provided that the total period of employment with any individual board of education did not exceed a two-year period.

NJSBA supports the amendment, which took effect immediately.

Youth Suicide Prevention Awareness Month AJR-26/SJR-47 (P.L.2019, JR-17), a joint resolution, permanently designates September of every year as “Youth Suicide Prevention Awareness Month” in New Jersey.  The purpose of the designation is to increase public awareness of the risk factors and warning signs for youth suicide, increase community involvement in creating strategies to prevent teens and young adults from taking their own lives, and to encourage the development of statewide comprehensive anti-suicide initiatives. NJSBA supports the resolution. An NJSBA task force on student mental health will release a report, “Building a Foundation for Hope,” later this year.