On Monday, Feb. 28, the Assembly gave final legislative approval to a bill that would give parents and school districts additional time to settle any disputes concerning the provision of special education services while schools were providing instruction in a predominantly remote or hybrid environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The extra time is intended to provide parents and school districts with additional time to work out new learning plans for their children with the goal of avoiding the need to file for a due process hearing with the state’s Office of Administrative Law.
As approved by both houses of the Legislature, A-1281/S-905 extends the period of time for filing special education due process petitions related to COVID-19 school closures and periods of virtual, remote, hybrid, or in-person instruction. Currently, parents have two years to file a due process petition with the Office of Administrative Law. This bill would allow a parent, guardian, or local educational agency to file a request for a due process hearing at any time prior to Sept. 1, 2023, regarding the identification, evaluation, educational placement, or the provision of a free and appropriate public education of a child with a disability during a COVID-19 school closure or a period of instruction occurring between March 18, 2020, and Sept.1, 2021. This essentially extends the time to file a petition up to approximately 18 months, depending on the date a party knew, or should have known, about the alleged action that forms the basis for the complainant to file a petition for a due process hearing.
The bill also requires each school district to hold an individualized education program team meeting to discuss the need for compensatory education and services for every student with a disability who had an IEP at any time between March 18, 2020, and Sept. 1, 2021. Such a meeting shall occur no later than the end of 2022. A parent would then have up until Sept. 1, 2023, to file for a due process hearing to challenge the determinations of the IEP team. However, if an IEP team meeting regarding compensatory education and services was already held prior to the effective date of this bill, then an additional IEP would not be required unless agreed to by both the parent and the district. In addition, a parent cannot file a claim regarding any matter that has already been resolved pursuant to mediation, a settlement agreement, or any other judicial or administrative order.
As originally introduced in the previous session, the bill would have extended by two years the amount of time that a parent could file a COVID-related due process claim – increasing the statute of limitation for such claims to a total four years. NJSBA had concerns with that proposal and worked closely with the sponsor and other stakeholders in crafting amendments to the bill. The Association now supports the legislation in its current form.
The governor is expected to sign the bill into law.
The Assembly also approved the following measures, both of which head to the Senate for further consideration:
Title IX Information A-2066 requires each public school to post on its website in an easily accessible location the following information regarding Title IX:
- The rights afforded to a student and the responsibilities of the school under Title IX.
- The name and contact information of the Title IX coordinator for the school, including the Title IX coordinator’s phone number and email address.
- The procedure to file a complaint under Title IX.
Under the bill, the commissioner of education must annually disseminate through electronic means a letter to each school informing the school of the rights afforded to a student and the responsibilities of the school under Title IX. NJSBA supports the bill.
Amistad Day AJR-59 designates Feb. 28 of each year as “Amistad Day.” throughout New Jersey in recognition of the importance of the Amistad case to the American abolitionist movement and to the causes of liberty and equality throughout the world. NJSBA supports the resolution.
For the complete version of any legislation described in this article, visit the New Jersey Legislature’s website.