On Friday, May 10, Governor Murphy took action on dozens of bills, including several education-related measures, which were sent to his desk before the Legislature went into its annual budget break in March. On Monday, he approved legislation that would expand the statute of limitations in certain sexual abuse cases. A summary of new enactments that will affect New Jersey’s school districts and students follows below.
Bills Signed Into Law
Extending Statute of Limitations in Sex Abuse CasesS-477/A-3648 (P.L.2019, c.120) extends the statute of limitations in civil actions for sexual abuse claims and expands the categories of potential defendants in civil actions. The bill creates a two-year window for parties to bring previously time-barred actions based on sexual abuse. This bill would provide minors who were victims of abuse with up to 37 years to pursue a claim against a school district in court. NJSBA supported the legislation and the extension of the statute of limitations but expressed concerns about a provision that would require these suits to be handled outside of the traditional pathways for suing public entities through the New Jersey Tort Claims Act. These standards differ from those applied to nonprofits.
The legislation, as enacted, does not address standards of liability for public entities. When he signed the bill, the governor indicated that the lack of clarity would “likely lead to additional litigation.” Murphy said that supplemental legislation would be introduced to clarify that “public entities should be held to the same standard of liability that is applied to religious and nonprofit organizations.”
The new law goes into effect on December 1, 2019.
Sexual Misconduct and Child Abuse Bills Approved The governor signed the following measures designed to reduce sexual misconduct and abuse in public schools. These enactments, each of which are supported by NJSBA, take effect immediately and build upon several related bills signed by the governor this past March.
Task Force on Child Sexual AbuseS-2707/A-4403 (P.L.2019, c.107) establishes a task force within the NJDOE to make recommendations for reducing child sexual abuse in this state, including recommendations for school policies and training that address the sexual abuse of children. NJSBA would have a representative on the task force.
Criminalizing Sex with Adult StudentsS-2709/A-4404/A-1909 (P.L.2019, c.108) provides that certain persons who commit an act of sexual penetration or contact with students who are at least 18 but less than 22 years old are guilty of sexual assault or criminal sexual contact. Current law already makes it illegal for an individual to engage in such activity with anyone under the age of 18 over whom the individual has supervisory or disciplinary authority. Under this bill, a person would be guilty of sexual assault if he commits an act of sexual penetration with a victim who is 18 years old or older and less than 22 years old if: (a) the victim is a student in a school where the actor is a teaching staff member, substitute teacher, school bus driver, other school employee, contracted service provider, or volunteer; and (b) the actor has supervisory or disciplinary power over the victim. Sexual assault is a crime of the second degree, which is punishable by a term of imprisonment of five to 10 years, or a fine of up to $15,000, or both.
Child Abuse Training for Teaching CandidatesS-2711/A-4405 (P.L.2019, c.109) mandates child abuse and sexual abuse training for all candidates for teaching certification. Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year, all such candidates who have completed an educator preparation program shall have satisfactorily completed a course or training that includes the recognition of, and the requirement to report, child and sexual abuse. All commissioner-approved educator preparation programs must review and update their programs to implement the bill’s requirements.
Student Self-Administration of MedicationA-4799/S-3315 (P.L.2019, c.118) requires a district or nonpublic school to permit the self-administration by a pupil of hydrocortisone sodium succinate, a medication designed to treat adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency is a disorder in which the adrenal glands fail to produce sufficient amounts of steroid hormones, such as the stress hormone cortisol. Inadequate levels of adrenal hormones can result in an adrenal crisis, which may be life threatening without proper immediate treatment. The existing statutory provisions governing self-administration of medication for asthma or a life-threatening illness or allergic reaction would apply to the self-administration of adrenal insufficiency medication. The bill also requires that school districts establish a policy for the emergency administration of such medication. The policy would be modeled on the policy currently required for the emergency administration of epinephrine to pupils for anaphylaxis. NJSBA supports the measure. The law takes effect immediately and will apply in the 2019-2020 school year.
Sharing School Maps with Law Enforcement S-2676/A-4112 (P.L.2019, c.106) requires boards of education and nonpublic schools to provide law enforcement authorities with copies of blueprints and maps of schools and school grounds. Under the bill, if a school building is located in a municipality which does not have a municipal police department, copies of the blueprints and maps will be provided to an entity designated by the superintendent of the State Police. The bill directs a board of education and chief school administrator of a nonpublic school to provide revised copies to law enforcement whenever there is a change to the blueprints or maps. Current State Board of Education regulations require all school districts to have a memorandum of agreement with law enforcement authorities. NJSBA supports the bill, which went into effect immediately upon the governor’s signature.
Promoting ApprenticeshipsS-372/A-131 (P.L.2019, c.96) requires the N.J. Commissioner of Education, in consultation with the Commissioner of Labor, to develop guidelines for high school counselors to coordinate services with representatives of the New Jersey State Building and Construction Trades Council for purposes of encouraging student participation in apprenticeships and raising awareness of apprenticeship opportunities. The Commissioner of Education will post the guidelines on the department’s website and will update the information annually. NJSBA supports the measure, which took effect immediately.
Recruiting Male Minority TeachersS-703/A-3141 (P.L.2019, c.102) directs the N.J. Commissioner of Education to establish a pilot program to recruit male residents who are from disadvantaged or minority backgrounds to enroll in the alternate route teacher preparation program and to match them with teaching opportunities in an underperforming school. Under the bill, the commissioner would select six underperforming schools from throughout the state for participation in the pilot program. The bill directs the commissioner to establish policies and procedures for the recruitment and selection of eligible participants for the program, and for matching the selected participants to teaching opportunities at participating schools under the alternate route program. Two years after the program starts, the commissioner would submit a report to the governor and Legislature, including a recommendation on the advisability of continuing and expanding the program. NJSBA supports the bill, which went into effective immediately upon the governor’s approval.
Senate Voting Session and Committee Action
On Monday, the full Senate convened for a voting session and approved the following three school-related measures:
Restorative Justice in Education Pilot Program S-2564 directs the N.J. Commissioner of Education to establish a three-year “Restorative Justice in Education Pilot Program” to implement restorative justice practices in the public schools. Under the bill, “restorative justice” is defined as a system of dispute resolution that allows all parties of a dispute to be involved in defining the harm, and devising remedies, while giving the necessary attention to community safety, victims’ needs, and the need for offender accountability. The pilot program will address school discipline issues through restorative justice practices. Under the bill, the goals of the pilot program are to reduce racial disparities in school discipline; improve the socioemotional and behavioral responses of students through more appropriate, and less punitive, interventions; and to reduce recidivism rates among students who violate the school district code of conduct. NJSBA supports the measure.
School Psychologist Grant ProgramS-2843 would establish a $1 million grant program in the N.J. Department of Education to assist school districts in the hiring of school psychologists. The Commissioner of Education would establish an application process, pursuant to criteria included in the bill, and award the grants on a competitive basis. NJSBA supports the measure.
Later School Start Time PilotS-3160 establishes a four-year pilot program in the N.J. Department of Education on later school start times for high school students. The program would implement later school start times for high school students in selected school districts and study the issues, benefits, and options for instituting a later start time to the school day. The commissioner will select five school districts from urban, suburban, and rural areas of the state to participate in the pilot program. NJSBA supports the bill.
The Senate Community and Urban Affairs Committee also met on Monday and released the following NJSBA-tracked bills:
Sharing PILOT Revenue with School Districts S-59 requires municipalities to share certain payments received in lieu of property taxes (PILOTs) with school districts. Mayors would be required to provide counties and school districts with copies of the recommendations submitted to municipal governing bodies regarding applications from urban renewal entities. Counties and school districts would then have 10 days to review these submissions and provide their own recommendations. A municipality receiving a PILOT payment would be required to distribute a portion of the amount received to the school district or districts, including regional school districts. The portion would be based on the number of children who are attending the public school and residing in the approved project. The committee amended the bill to require the school district to reduce its levy by the amount received from a PILOT payment. NJSBA supported the legislation, but asked the committee to reconsider the amendment requiring proportionate levy reductions.
Limiting Mold ExposureS-2897 would establish mandatory procedures for the inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential and school facilities statewide. The bill requires the Department of Community Affairs (DCA) to establish certification programs for persons who wish to conduct mold inspections and mold hazard abatements, respectively, on residential buildings and school facilities. The bill also requires the DCA to establish procedures for the inspection and abatement of mold hazards in residential buildings and school facilities. These procedures would be used to develop the two certification programs and be based on industry standards and guidelines developed by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. NJSBA supports the bill.