Latest Developments From The Connecticut General Assembly: The Education Committee Speaks

by Pullman & Comley - School Law

Before the deadline for committee action, the General Assembly’s Education Committee voted favorably on and advanced out of committee a plethora of bills. Among the most noteworthy were: 1) a bill that would delay the implementation of the uniform regional calendar, 2) a bill giving greater discretion to school boards with regard to expunging an expulsion from student records, and 3) further bills dealing with school safety. The 2014 session of the General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn on May 7, 2014, so stay tuned as the action at the legislature accelerates. The following is list of pertinent bills voted out of committee:

H.B. 5043 AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE BUDGET RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE GOVERNOR CONCERNING EDUCATION. This bill would implement the Governor’s budgetary recommendations (particularly to the extent necessary to implement the latest Sheff settlement and expand early childhood education).

H.B. 5355 AN ACT CONCERNING COLLABORATION BETWEEN BOARDS OF EDUCATION AND SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS. This bill would require school districts to adopt policies or enter into memoranda of understanding with law enforcement agencies concerning the use of law enforcement personnel as school resource officers.

H.B. 5357 AN ACT CONCERNING CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM. This bill would require school districts to address issues relating to “chronic absenteeism,” in addition to mere “truancy.”

H.B. 5519 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT INTERNSHIPS. This bill would provide immunity from liability for injuries arising out of internships offered as part of an agricultural science and technology education center program. The immunity provided would apply only to ordinary negligence and would not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, reckless, wilful or wanton misconduct.

H.B. 5521 AN ACT CONCERNING THE STORAGE AND ADMINISTRATION OF EPINEPHRINE AT PUBLIC SCHOOLS AND PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS OF HIGHER EDUCATION. This bill would authorize the storage of epinephrine at schools and the administration of epinephrine to students who do not have a prior written authorization for epinephrine; this bill would also provide greater specificity in the statute governing the administration of medications in the schools.

H.B. 5559 AN ACT CONCERNING A UNIFORM REGIONAL SCHOOL CALENDAR. This bill would adopt the recommendations of the Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force to delay mandatory implementation of the uniform regional school calendar by a year (until 2016-2017) and to permit a school district to delay implementation for an extra year (2017-2018) if an existing employee contract makes such implementation “impossible.”

H.B. 5561 AN ACT CONCERNING STATE AND LOCAL CHARTER SCHOOL ACCOUNTABILITY AND TRANSPARENCY AND PARTICIPATION IN COOPERATIVE ARRANGEMENTS. This bill would include “local” charter schools in the laws regarding charter school transparency, accountability and cooperative arrangements; such laws currently apply only to “state” charter schools.

H.B. 5562 AN ACT CONCERNING SPECIAL EDUCATION. This bill would add dyslexia as a separate primary disability on the individualized education program form, require boards of education to inform parents and guardians via the procedural safeguards of their right to withhold enrolling their child in kindergarten, and create a three-tier funding system for special education “excess cost” grant payments

H.B. 5564 AN ACT CONCERNING SCHOOL SAFETY. This bill would establish a “safe travel to school” grant program, include a student safety hotline as part of the “2-1-1 Infoline” program, include nonpublic schools as eligible recipients for school security infrastructure grants, establish an approval process for safe school climate plans submitted by local and regional boards of education to the State Department of Education, require school climate assessment surveys to include students’ perspectives and opinions about the school climate, and require the State Department of Education to analyze student perspectives and opinions about school climate in its annual report on school climate

H.B. 5566 AN ACT CONCERNING MINOR REVISIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES. This bill would make minor revisions to educational statutes covering, among other things, the administration of certain medical screenings and the sale of permissible beverages on school grounds.

H.B. 5567 AN ACT CONCERNING ALTERNATIVE SCHOOLS. This bill would clarify and establish the criteria by which boards of education are to offer alternative school programs (including the “alternative educational opportunities” offered to expelled students).

S.B. 25 AN ACT ESTABLISHING THE OFFICE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD. This bill would establish an “Office of Early Childhood” that would be responsible for the delivery of services to young children, administering a coordinated system of early care and education, and developing and implementing an early childhood information system.

S.B. 26 AN ACT EXPANDING OPPORTUNITIES FOR EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION. This bill would expand access to school readiness programs.

S.B. 281 AN ACT CONCERNING RECOMMENDATIONS BY THE LEGISLATIVE COMMISSIONERS FOR TECHNICAL REVISIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES. This bill would make a technical revision to the statute concerning the alternate route to certification for school administrators.

S.B. 282 AN ACT CONCERNING THE INCLUSION OF TEEN DATING VIOLENCE EDUCATION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULUM. This bill would include teen dating violence education in the prescribed courses of study in the public school curriculum.

S.B. 423 AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENT PRIVACY AND THE ADMINISTRATION OF THE ARMED SERVICES VOCATIONAL APTITUDE BATTERY. This bill would require school districts to select the option that student test results on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery administered at their schools not be released to recruiting services; the parent or student on their own being would be able to release the results to a recruiting service.

S.B. 424 AN ACT CONCERNING ACCESS TO PRESCHOOL PROGRAMS FOR CHILDREN IN THE CARE AND CUSTODY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES. This bill would require the Department of Children and Families to enroll in a preschool program each preschool-aged child who is its custody.

S.B. 425 AN ACT CONCERNING THE STATE EDUCATION RESOURCE CENTER. This bill would convert the State Education Resource Center into a quasi-public agency.

S.B. 475 AN ACT CONCERNING AUTHORIZATION OF STATE GRANT COMMITMENTS FOR SCHOOL BUILDING PROJECTS AND CONCERNING CHANGES TO THE STATUTES CONCERNING SCHOOL BUILDING PROJECTS. This bill would authorize state grant commitments for certain school building projects and make revisions to the statutes regarding the school safety infrastructure standards (including a possible waiver of said standards and requiring safety assessments by grant applicants).

S.B. 476 AN ACT CONCERNING THE ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT GAP. This bill would require all “alliance school districts” to provide full-day kindergarten and to increase the amount of time a student may spend in bilingual education from 30 months to 60 months.

S.B. 477 AN ACT CONCERNING BOARDS OF EDUCATION. This bill would provide greater discretion as to the conditions and when a board of education may expunge an expulsion from a student’s cumulative educational record (specifically, as to weapons-related offenses).

S.B. 68 AN ACT AUTHORIZING THE USE OF CERTAIN MICROBIAL AND BIOCHEMICAL PESTICIDES AND GRUB CONTROL PRODUCTS ON SCHOOL GROUNDS. The bill would permit the use of certain microbial and biochemical pesticides and grub control products on school grounds.

H.B. 5040 AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEPARTMENT OF CHILDREN AND FAMILIES AND THE PROTECTION OF CHILDREN. This bill would, among other things, 1) clearly indicate that coaches are “mandated reporters,” and 2) clarify the circumstances with regard to the sharing of information to schools of the placement of an employee on the child abuse and neglect registry list, along with the suspension of such an employee.

H.B. 5113 AN ACT CONCERNING YOUTH ATHLETICS AND CONCUSSIONS. This bill would 1) require the State Board of Education to develop a concussion education plan, 2) require the operators of youth athletic activities to provide information on concussions to youth athletes and their parents and guardians, 3) require youth athletes suspected of sustaining a concussion to provide written clearance from a medical professional prior to returning to the athletic activity, 4) limit “full contact” practices to ninety minutes per week, and 5) require local and regional boards of education to compile and report all instances of concussions suffered by students.

S.B. 203 AN ACT CONCERNING A STATE-WIDE SEXUAL ABUSE AND ASSAULT AWARENESS PROGRAM. This bill would require the Department of Children and Families, together with the Departments of Education and Social Services and Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc. to identify or develop a statewide sexual abuse and assault awareness program for use by regional and local school boards.

S.B. 229 AN ACT CONCERNING SUDDEN CARDIAC ARREST PREVENTION. This bill would establish a sudden cardiac arrest awareness education program to educate students, parents and school staff (including coaches) about the dangers of sudden cardiac events during intramural and interscholastic athletics. The bill would require local and regional school districts and the vocational-technical high school system to distribute to parents and guardians of students participating in athletics a form related to sudden cardiac arrest. The form must include at least a summary of the 1) sudden cardiac arrest awareness education program and 2) applicable district policies on sudden cardiac arrests.

S.B. 224 AN ACT CONCERNING RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE SCHOOL NURSE ADVISORY COUNCIL. This bill would adopt the recommendations of the School Nurse Advisory Council with regard to school nursing staffing ratios and a nursing orientation program.

S.B. 217 AN ACT CONCERNING EXCUSED ABSENCES FROM SCHOOL FOR CHILDREN OF SERVICE MEMBERS. This bill would provide that any student whose parent or legal guardian has been called to duty in, is on leave from, or has returned from deployment to a combat zone or “combat supporting post” shall be granted at least ten days of excused absence annually, and would require that the student complete assignments missed during the period of the excused absence.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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