Bills designed to keep student athletes safe were voted out of the Senate Education Committee on June 17. The bills focus on returning to school and athletics after a concussion, conducting athletics outside in safe ranges of heat and humidity, and emergency response to serious or life-threatening injuries.

Concussion ProtocolS-2442 provides that a student-athlete who sustains a concussion must return to regular school activities prior to returning to competition. The bill requires school districts to implement a five-step return-to-competition process.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed recommendations concerning a student-athlete’s return to sports and activities following a concussion or other head injury.  According to the centers, a student-athlete who sustains a concussion or other head injury should not return to competition or practice until he first returns to regular school activities and is no longer experiencing symptoms of the injury when conducting those activities.  Once those conditions are met, the centers recommend that the student-athlete engage in a graduated, five-step “Return-to-Play-Progression” to ensure the student-athlete’s safety and well-being. The centers’ “Return-to-Play-Progression” recommendations are:  (1) light aerobic activity; (2) moderate activity; (3) heavy, non-contact activity; (4) practice and full contact; and (5) competition. The bill requires the Department of Education to revise its athletic head injury safety training program to include information on the centers’ graduated, five-step “Return to Play Progression” recommendations. It also requires a school district to revise its written policy concerning the prevention and treatment of sports-related concussions and other head injuries to also include the centers’ “Return to Play Progression” recommendations. NJSBA supports the bill.

Heat and Humidity Policy —S-2443  requires school districts that participate in statewide interscholastic sports programs to adopt the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association’s (NJSIAA) heat and humidity practice policy.  This bill requires each school district that is a member of NJSIAA to adopt the association’s policy for conducting practice in all sports during times of high heat or humidity.  Under the bill, the association’s policy must address the scheduling of practice during times of various heat and humidity levels; the ratio of time devoted to workouts to time allotted for rest and hydration during various heat and humidity levels; and the heat and humidity levels at which practice will be canceled. Under the bill, guidelines included in the association’s policy will provide a default policy to those responsible or sharing duties for making decisions concerning cancellation of practices and contests based on the presence of heat and humidity. The bill also requires these school districts to purchase a WetBulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) tool to measure the heat stress in direct sunlight at the practice site. Heat stress consists of temperature, humidity, wind speed, the angle of the sun, and cloud coverage. NJSBA supports the bill.

Emergency Action Plan —S-2494 requires that a public school district and a nonpublic school that includes any of the grades six through 12 establish and implement an emergency action plan for responding to a serious or potentially life-threatening sports-related injury.  The plan will document the proper procedures to be followed when a student sustains a serious injury while participating in sports or other athletic activity.  The plan will be specific to the activity site and must be developed in consultation with local emergency medical services personnel. The emergency action plan established by a school district or nonpublic school is required to include, but need not be limited to, the following items: a list of the employees, team coaches, and licensed athletic trainers in each school who are trained in first aid or cardio-pulmonary resuscitation; identification of the employees, team coaches, or licensed athletic trainers in each school who will be responsible for carrying out the emergency action plan, with a description of their respective responsibilities; identification of the activity location or venue; identification of the equipment and supplies needed to respond to a serious sports-related injury including, but not limited to, responding to the injured student, summoning emergency medical care, assisting emergency responders in getting to the injured student, and documenting the actions taken during the emergency. The bill also requires that the emergency action plan be reviewed annually and updated as necessary. In addition, the individuals who will be responsible for executing the plan in an emergency must rehearse the plan annually in each school. NJSBA supports the bill.

Indoor Temperature Control —S-2563/A-665 requires each board of education to adopt a policy establishing temperature control standards and guidelines for school district facilities.  The policy must ensure, to the greatest extent feasible, that school buildings provide students with a temperature-controlled environment that is conducive to learning.  The policy requires:

  • A designated staff member in each school building in the district to monitor compliance with the standards and initiate permitted corrective action.
  • Establishing a protocol to follow in instances where classroom temperatures are identified as not being conducive to learning.
  • Identifying what temperature control measures are permitted in accordance with local building and fire codes.

The bill also directs the New Jersey Department of Education and the New Jersey Department of Health to develop guidance to assist school districts in establishing and implementing a policy concerning temperature control.  NJSBA supports the bill.

Assessment of Substance Abuse Risk —S-491 requires school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools to provide for an annual written or verbal substance use screening for each high school student.  If the student screens positive for potential substance misuse, the person administering the screening will be required to provide brief counseling using motivational interviewing and assist the student with referral to treatment options, if needed.  The Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services in the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Families will make training for personnel available to school districts, charter schools, and nonpublic schools. The parent or guardian of a student must be given prior written notice of the screening and an opportunity to have the student opt out.  The bill also includes a provision regarding the privacy of information collected during the screening.  Statements made by a student during a screening are considered confidential information and cannot be disclosed by a person receiving the statement to any other person without the prior consent of the student and the student’s parent or guardian, except in cases of immediate medical emergency or if disclosure is otherwise required by state law. A school district, charter school, or nonpublic school is also permitted to opt out of the program if it is implementing an alternative screening program and provides to the Department of Education a detailed description of that program and the reasons why the Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) program is not appropriate for its use. The State Board of Education, in conjunction with the Commissioner of Human Services, will provide regulations for the bill. NJSBA supports the intent of the bill and will work with the sponsor to amend language pertaining to boards of education.

Provision of Free Feminine Hygiene Products —S-3645 requires school districts to ensure that students in schools in grades 6 through 12 where 40% or more of their students reside in households with a household income at or below the most recent federal poverty guidelines have direct access to feminine hygiene products in at least half of the school bathrooms free of charge.  Any costs incurred by a school district in complying with the provisions of this bill will be reimbursed by the state. For purposes of this bill, “feminine hygiene products” mean tampons and sanitary napkins.  NJSBA supports the bill.

Amistad Commission —S-3817 provides for Amistad Commission to be “in but not of” the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE). The bill requires the commission to elect a chairperson and appoint an executive director. It requires public schools to include instruction on accomplishments and contributions of African Americans to American society.   The Amistad Commission was created in order to coordinate educational and other programs on slavery in America and African-American history. Under the original statute, the Amistad Commission was established in the executive branch and allocated within the Department of State. The Amistad law directs the NJDOE to assist the commission in developing curriculum guidelines regarding slavery and African-American history, distributing educational information and materials to school districts, and monitoring the inclusion of the materials and curricula in the state’s educational system.  In June 2011, Gov. Chris Christie issued a reorganization plan to transfer the Amistad Commission from the Department of State to the Department of Education in order to improve efficiency and quality in the performance of the commission’s responsibilities. This bill amends the statute that created the Amistad Commission to provide that the commission be in but not of the Department of Education; instead, it would be within the Department of State.  The bill also provides that support for the operation of the commission be appropriated by the Legislature through a separate line item in the annual appropriations act. NJSBA supports the bill.

Career and Technical Education Month —SJR-112/AJR-180 designates the month of February each year as “Career and Technical Education Month” in New Jersey to recognize and promote the many benefits of career and technical education. NJSBA supports the resolution.

STEM Scholars Grant Pilot Program —S-3350 The program would provide grants to assist school districts in enhancing and increasing student access to STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education programs. Applications for grant awards would be submitted to the commissioner of education, who would allocate the awards on a competitive basis.  The grant awards would be distributed so that school districts can build upon existing STEM education programs or create new education programs along three distinct areas of concentration, namely: 1) project-based learning, 2) afterschool STEM, 3) and out-of-school STEM.  This bill also establishes a “STEM Scholars Grant Fund,” which would be credited with state appropriations, private donations, or federal funds to finance the program. NJSBA supports the legislation.

Creates Special Education Unit within Office of Administrative LawS-3759 Under the bill, all contested cases concerning special education law referred to the Office of Administrative Law would be assigned to and adjudicated by the administrative law judges in the special education unit. The bill would take effect on the first day of the ninth month following enactment in order to allow the OAL to develop a timeline for training judges and assigning judges to the new unit. NJSBA supports the bill, which now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Mallory’s Law — S-3433 “Mallory’s Law” revises provisions required in a school district’s anti-bullying policy; provides for civil liability of parent of a minor who is adjudicated delinquent for cyberharassment or harassment; and increases certain fines against parents.  The bill requires that harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) complaints be on numbered forms. The form must be completed, even if a preliminary determination is made under the school district’s policy that the reported incident or complaint is outside the scope of the definition of harassment, intimidation, or bullying. Further, under the bill, for the first act of harassment, intimidation, or bullying committed by a student, a copy of the results of the investigation will be placed in the student’s record and the student may be subject to discipline imposed by the superintendent; for the second act, a copy of the results of the investigation will be placed in the student’s record and the student will be subject to a plan of disciplinary action established by the superintendent; and for the third act, a copy of the results of the investigation will be placed in the student’s record, and the executive county superintendent will be informed and will impose the appropriate discipline and require the student, accompanied by a parent or guardian, to complete a class or training program to reduce the tendency toward HIB behavior. The executive county superintendent will also notify the appropriate law enforcement official of a possible violation of the New Jersey Code of Criminal Justice.  The bill increases fines under the provisions of the cyberharassment statute, section 1 of P.L.2013, c.272 (C.2C:33-4.1), and the court may order a parent or guardian of a minor under the age of 16 who has been adjudicated delinquent of cyberharassment to attend classes or training with the minor. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Judiciary Committee

Sex Abuse Liability Standards —S-3739  The Senate Judiciary Committee considered S-3739, which would establish new liability standards in sexual abuse lawsuits filed against public entities and public employees. These new standards would be identical to the liability standards applied to non-profit organizations and their officers, employees and other agents, based on exceptions to the immunity granted to such organizations and agents under the Charitable Immunity Act. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee

Sunshine Law RevisionsS-106 would provide greater access to the meetings of public bodies under the Sunshine Law. Public bodies would be required to determine whether a formally constituted subcommittee should be open to the public. All subcommittees would be required to report quarterly, while all subcommittees open to the public would have to provide adequate notice of their meetings and allow the public to attend those meetings. The bill also would expand the public notification process to include electronic notification on request. It would put increased restrictions on public bodies voting on an item not previously listed on the public agenda. All public information pertaining to public meetings – minutes, decisions, ordinances and resolutions – would be required to remain online for a period of at least five years after the posting. While supportive of the intent of the bill, NJSBA sought amendments to reduce the administrative burden on school districts. Further, NJSBA sought the removal of an amendment that would allow complainants to recover attorney’s fees for violations of the Sunshine Law. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

Open Public Records Act —  S-107 would update, clarify and expand definitions of the type of records that are accessible under the Open Public Records Act. While supportive of the intent of the bill, NJSBA sought amendments to reduce the administrative burden on school districts that these new requirements create. The bill would exclude some materials from disclosure, including personal debit card numbers, personal bank account information, cell phone numbers and the email addresses given for contact information purposes. The bill would require the custodian of public records to provide a certified statement for why any redactions were made and update the process to respond to requests for documents electronically available or available online. The bill would also make it easier for custodians to send public records via email rather than by paper. Records custodians would be allowed under exceptional circumstances to petition the Superior Court to protect them from a requestor asking for records for the purpose of harassing the public agency. The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.