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Special Education Bills Signed Into Law

As school gets underway across New Jersey, Governor Christie has signed into law two new bills relating to special education. The bills are aimed at promoting achievement for all students and prevention and detection of behavioral issues in pre-school through grade 2 children.

Achievement for All Students

(A-2566/S-496) establishes an initiative through the Department of Education to support and encourage school districts in implementation of a Response to Intervention framework. The framework’s purpose is to identify struggling learners, maximize student achievement, and reduce behavioral problems for all students. The Department of Education’s initiative will also include guidance to school districts relating to use of a Response to Intervention framework to identify students with specific learning disabilities, which framework is already required by the national special education law, the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA) (20 U.S.C. section 1400 et seq).

While the bill seeks to focus on achievement for all students, it makes clear that the new Response to Intervention framework is not a substitute for classification of a disabled student as eligible for special education and related services if the student requires classification. Disabled students found eligible for special education classification will still be provided with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) in accordance with IDEA.

The new Response to Intervention framework will include elements such as: 1) high quality research-based instruction in the general education setting; 2) universal screening procedures to identify students at risk for poor learning outcomes or behavioral challenges, 3) multiple levels of evidence-based interventions that are progressively more intense, based on the student’s responsiveness, and 4) continuous monitoring of student progress. Technical assistance and training will be made available to assist school districts in the implementation of the new framework.

Prevention and Detection of Behavioral Issues in Pre-school through Grade 2 Children

(S-2-2 081/A-3790) addresses expulsions and suspensions for students enrolled in preschool through second grade in a New Jersey school district or charter school by placing limits on the current law, N.J.S. 18A:37, that the sets forth the types of conduct that may constitute good cause for the suspension or expulsion of a student from school. Under the new law, kindergarten through second grade students may not be expelled from school, except as provided under the “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act,” P.L 1995, c.127 (C.18A:37-7 et seq). Out-of-school suspensions for students in kindergarten through second grade are also prohibited, except where the suspension is based on conduct that is of a violent or sexual nature that endangers others.

All suspensions for preschool students are prohibited. Also, preschool students may not be expelled from school, except as provided under the “Zero Tolerance for Guns Act.”

School districts and charter schools will be required to implement early detection and prevention programs to identify preschool through second grade students who are experiencing behavioral or disciplinary problems. School districts and charter schools will now be required to provide behavioral supports for such students. Behavioral supports may include remediation of problem behaviors, supportive interventions, positive reinforcements and even referral services for the student’s family. This new early detection and prevention program may be incorporated into a school district or charter school’s existing system of intervention and referral services that is required under current State Board of Education regulations at N.J.A.C.6A:16-8.1 to 8.2.

For questions regarding these new school laws and how they may specifically affect your child, please contact Diana Sever, Esq. at 856-242-8151 or by email.