New Laws Affecting Schools: Highlights of the 2014 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly

LR-conn-statehouse-dome-11x17-72dpiThe 2014 session of the Connecticut General Assembly has just concluded.  The following are some highlights of the more relevant bills that were passed by the General Assembly and awaiting the signature of the Governor.  A more comprehensive listing and discussion of the enactments from the 2014 session will be forthcoming from this firm after the Governor has acted upon all of the relevant bills (including the much ballyhooed “chocolate milk” bill and, of course, “the implementer”).

Note: For a listing of employment-related bills that were passed by the legislature, please click here.

Epi-pens for Emergency First Aid to Students Schools are now authorized to maintain epinephrine for use in emergency situations with students who experience an allergic reaction and do not have a prior written authorization for epinephrine.

Uniform Regional School Calendar-Delay of the mandatory implementation until 2016-17 with the possibility of an additional year if an existing employee contract makes implementation “impossible.” See previous post here.

DyslexiaDyslexia is added as a separate primary disability on IEP forms; teacher preparation programs will include instruction on dyslexia detection and interventions for students.

Kindergarten Enrollment– Notice must be given to parents via the special education procedural safeguards of their right to withhold enrolling their child in kindergarten. In addition to its mission of administering and expanding school readiness programs, the newly established “Office of Early Childhood” must develop a plan by June 30, 2015 for (1) changing the date that a child must reach five years of age to be eligible to enroll in kindergarten from January 1st of any school year to October 1, and (2) the creation of spaces in school readiness programs and public and private prekindergarten programs for those children who reach five years of age after October 1 and are not eligible to enroll in kindergarten for such school year.

Bullying and Safe School Climate There are more changes to the bullying statutes, including:

  • a requirement that the annual notice concerning the school climate plan be provided at the beginning of each school year;
  • the parents of both the alleged bully and alleged victim must receive “prompt notice” that an investigation has begun;
  • meetings with parents of victim and perpetrator shall be held separately;
  • “prevention and intervention strategy” may include “culturally competent school-based curriculum focusing on social-emotional learning, self-awareness and self-regulation”;
  • “interventions with the bullied child” may include referrals to a school counselor, psychologist or other appropriate social or mental health services and periodic follow-up by the safe school climate specialist;
  • school climate assessment instruments must include surveys that contain grade-level appropriate questions to collect information (anonymously) about students’ perspectives and opinions about school climate; and
  • establishment of a “safe travel to school” grant program, including a student safety hotline.

ExpulsionBoards now have greater discretion to expunge an expulsion from a student’s cumulative educational record when a district finds that the student’s conduct in the years following expulsion warrants expungement, as well as with regard to weapons-related offenses committed by students in Grades K-8.

Truancy and Excused Absences – Students may be excused for absences related to visiting with a parent or guardian who is an active duty member of the Armed Forces on leave, about to be deployed, or just returning from combat.  Therefore, the definition of “excused absence” has been expanded.

Sexual Abuse and Assault AwarenessThe Department of Children and Families,in collaboration with the State Department of Education, will be responsible for creating a Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness program, including teacher training and age-appropriate educational materials for grades K through 12, as well as the development of a uniform child sexual abuse and assault response policy. Boards of education are required to implement the program no later than October 1, 2015. Part of the law states that parents may request exemption from such instruction.

Athletics – Concussions and Sudden Cardiac ArrestThe State Board of Education will develop a concussion education plan and a sudden cardiac arrest awareness education program for use by school districts, both of which will include the requirement that schools use “informed consent” forms regarding concussions and/or sudden cardiac arrest for students participating in athletics.

Teachers’ Retirement IncomeA portion of the state teachers’ retirement system [“TRS”] income is exempted from state income tax, specifically by allowing taxpayers to deduct/exclude from gross income 10% of TRS income for the 2015 tax year, 25% for the 2016 tax year, and 50% for 2017 and subsequent tax years.