The Aftermath: Developments From The 2015 Session of The Connecticut General Assembly Affecting Schools

No CaptionThe 2015 session of the Connecticut General Assembly has just concluded.  A comprehensive summary and discussion of laws that were passed during the 2015 session will be forthcoming from this firm after the Governor has acted upon all of the relevant bills, and after the conclusion of the upcoming “special session.”  In the meantime, we are providing a cursory listing of some of the relevant bills that were passed by the General Assembly.  Please note: a summary of bills concerning labor and employment issues may be found here on our labor, employment law and employee benefits blog, “Working Together.”

PUBLIC ACT 15-94: AN ACT CONCERNING THE INCLUSION OF CARDIOPULMONARY RESUSCITATION TRAINING, THE SAFE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA AND COMPUTER PROGRAMMING INSTRUCTION IN THE PUBLIC SCHOOL CURRICULUM.  This Act will include instruction in computer programming, the safe use of social media, and cardiopulmonary resuscitation as part of the curriculum in the public schools, effective in 2016-2017.

PUBLIC ACT 15-17: AN ACT CONCERNING A LABOR AND FREE MARKET CAPITALISM CURRICULUM. This Act requires the State Board of Education [“SBE”] to make available curriculum materials relating to labor history, labor law and free market capitalism to school districts.

PUBLIC ACT 15-143: AN ACT CONCERNING THE LEGISLATIVE COMMISSIONERS’ RECOMMENDATIONS FOR TECHNICAL REVISIONS TO THE EDUCATION AND EARLY CHILDHOOD STATUTES.

PUBLIC ACT 15-96: AN ACT PROHIBITING OUT-OF-SCHOOL SUSPENSIONS AND EXPULSIONS FOR STUDENTS IN PRESCHOOL AND GRADES KINDERGARTEN TO TWO.  As the title suggests, this Act would effectively prohibit school districts from issuing out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for students enrolled in a preschool program or grades kindergarten through second, inclusive, with certain exceptions for serious offenses.

PUBLIC ACT 15-97: AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENTS WITH DYSLEXIA.  This Act requires an employee of the State Department of Education [“SDE”] to be responsible for providing information and assistance to the public relating to dyslexia, includes specific programmatic requirements for teacher preparation courses relating to dyslexia and includes dyslexia instruction as part of the in-service training for educators.

PUBLIC ACT 15-145: AN ACT CONCERNING THE COLLECTION OF DATA RELATING TO PER PUPIL COSTS FOR SPECIAL EDUCATION.  This Act requires local and regional school districts to annually report data relating to local special education expenditures (both aggregate and for individual students) to the SDE.

S.B. 1057: AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEVELOPMENT OF A ROLLING THREE-YEAR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENT AND CAPITAL EQUIPMENT PLAN FOR THE TECHNICAL HIGH SCHOOL SYSTEM.

S.B. 1058: AN ACT CONCERNING CHRONIC ABSENTEEISM.  Among other things, this bill requires school districts that have “high” rates of chronic absenteeism to establish a district school attendance review team, requires the SDE to develop a chronic absenteeism prevention and intervention plan, requires the SBE to define “disciplinary absence” and requires school boards to report data relating to student attendance.

S.B. 1059: AN ACT CONCERNING HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS. Among other things, this bill delays implementation of the new high school graduation requirements for one year, permits students to earn credit for college coursework completed during summer break, and awards a community service recognition award to students who complete fifty or more hours of community service.

S.B. 1095: AN ACT CONCERNING STUDENTS ASSESSMENTS.  Among other things, this bill will replace the current mastery examination testing requirement for 11th graders with “a nationally recognized college readiness assessment” that measures essential and grade-appropriate skills in reading, writing and mathematics.

S.B. 1096: AN ACT CONCERNING CHARTER SCHOOLS.  This bill makes numerous changes in the charter application, approval and renewal process.  The bill also requires charter school governing council members, charter management organization [“CMO”] members, job applicants and contractors to submit to criminal and child abuse/neglect background checks.  The bill also sets forth procedures for charter schools to first acquire SBE approval of any “material change” in the school’s operations.  The bill also contains requirements for all CMO contracts, and purports to extend the applicability of the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to certain CMO records.

PUBLIC ACT 15-108: AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER CERTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS FOR SHORTAGE AREAS, INTERSTATE AGREEMENTS FOR TEACHER CERTIFICATION RECIPROCITY, MINORITY TEACHER RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION AND CULTURAL COMPETENCY INSTRUCTION.  Among other things, this Act permits the SBE to issue a temporary ninety-day certificate in the endorsement areas of teacher shortage areas.

S.B. 1101: AN ACT CONCERNING THE OFFICE OF EARLY CHILDHOOD.

H.B. 6834: AN ACT CONCERNING COLLABORATION BETWEEN BOARDS OF EDUCATION AND SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICERS. Among other things, this bill requires a board of education that assigns a school resource officer to any of its schools to enter into a memorandum of understanding with local law enforcement or the State Police regarding the school resource officer’s roles and responsibilities.

PUBLIC ACT 15-137: AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE ACHIEVEMENT GAP TASK FORCE CONCERNING THE CREATION OF A DIRECTOR OF READING INITIATIVES AT THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION.

H.B. 6975: AN ACT ESTABLISHING A TASK FORCE TO STUDY LIFE-THREATENING FOOD ALLERGIES IN SCHOOLS.

H.B. 6977: AN ACT ESTABLISHING QUALIFICATIONS FOR THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION.

H.B. 6978: AN ACT REQUIRING THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION TO DEVELOP AND SUBMIT A COMPREHENSIVE STATE-WIDE INTERDISTRICT MAGNET SCHOOL PLAN.  This bill requires the Commissioner of Education to submit a “comprehensive state-wide inter-district magnet school plan” to the General Assembly by October 1, 2016.

PUBLIC ACT 15-133: AN ACT CONCERNING ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION. This Act defines “alternative education” and requires the SDE to develop guidelines for the provision of alternative education.

PUBLIC ACT 15-99: AN ACT CONCERNING THE MINIMUM BUDGET REQUIREMENT. This Act would allow for greater reductions in the minimum budget requirement [“MBR”] due to reductions in enrollment, documented intra-district efficiencies, and regional collaboration/cooperative arrangements.

PUBLIC ACT 15-134: AN ACT CONCERNING EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATORS AND INITIATIVES. This Act (a) requires the Office of Early Childhood [“OEC”] to develop a plan regarding the implementation of stricter staff qualifications requirements, (b) delays stricter staff qualification requirements that were already approved, and (c) requires preschool programs offered by school district, magnet schools and charter schools to be accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

H.B. 7021: AN ACT CONCERNING TEACHER PREPARATION PROGRAM EFFICACY.  This bill requires the Office of Higher Education to submit a report on the quality of teacher preparation programs leading to professional certification offered at Connecticut’s institutions of higher education, and make revisions to the clinical, field or student teaching experience requirement for teacher preparation programs.

H.B. 7023: AN ACT CONCERNING VARIOUS REVISIONS AND ADDITIONS TO THE EDUCATION STATUTES.  This bill makes numerous changes to the education statutes, including but not limited to (a) changes to the health screening requirements, (b) changes to the notice requirements to school districts when a child has been accepted or placed on a waiting list for an inter-district magnet school, (c) specification that the union representation on a school district’s professional development/evaluation committee include at least one representative from both the teachers and administrators’ unions, and (d) changes in the law pertaining to the administration to students of anti-epileptic medication by school employees.

H.B. 6186: AN ACT PROTECTING SCHOOL CHILDREN. Among other things, this bill clarifies that the obligation of “mandated reporters” to report suspected abuse or neglect includes making a report to the Department of Children and Families [“DCF”] whenever there is reasonable cause to suspect or believe that a school employee is engaged in a sexual relationship or other inappropriate sexual contact — which is already criminalized as “sexual assault” — with a student, regardless of the age of the victim.  The bill also strengthens the criminal penalties that may be imposed upon mandated reporters who fail to make a timely report to DCF and persons who interfere with the making of a report to DCF.

H.B. 6579: AN ACT CONCERNING DEVELOPMENT SCREENINGS FOR CHILDREN. The bill will require each health care provider performing a physical examination of a child five years old or younger for purposes of completing the SDE’s early childhood health assessment record form or the health assessment form to indicate on such record or form whether or not the health care provider performed a “developmental screening” as part of the examination.

H.B. 6737: AN ACT IMPLEMENTING THE RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE PROGRAM REVIEW AND INVESTIGATIONS COMMITTEE CONCERNING TRANSITIONAL SERVICES FOR YOUTH AND YOUNG ADULTS WITH AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER.  Among other things, this bill adds to the list of materials that school districts must give to parents of students requiring special education and related services at planning and placement team [“PPT”] meetings information relating to transition resources and services for high school students.  This bill also requires the SBE to develop and distribute to all school districts a written “bill of rights” for parents of children receiving special education services to provide additional procedural safeguards and inform parents of their rights regarding transition services.  The school districts shall then be responsible for providing the bill of rights to parents at a PPT meeting for a child receiving special education services in grades six to twelve, inclusive.

S.B. 312: AN ACT CONCERNING THE PROTECTION OF PARTICULARLY VULNERABLE CHILDREN.

PUBLIC ACT 15-138: AN ACT CONCERNING FINANCIAL LITERACY EDUCATION.  This Act provides that the financial literacy curriculum materials that the SDE offers to school districts must include materials on banking, investing, savings, and the handling of personal finance matters.

PUBLIC ACT 15-27: AN ACT CONCERNING THE IMPLEMENTATION OF A COMPREHENSIVE CHILDREN’S MENTAL, EMOTIONAL AND BEHAVIORAL HEALTH PLAN.  

S.B. 843: AN ACT CONCERNING TRAUMA-INFORMED PRACTICE TRAINING FOR TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS AND PUPIL PERSONNEL.  This bill requires the SDE to assist and encourage school districts to provide as part of their annual in-service training programs instruction on trauma-informed practices for the school setting designed to enable a more adequate response to students with mental, emotional or behavioral health needs.

PUBLIC ACT 15-45: AN ACT ESTABLISHING A HOME VISITATION PROGRAM CONSORTIUM. 

PUBLIC ACT 15-112: AN ACT CONCERNING UNSUBSTANTIATED ALLEGATIONS OF ABUSE OR NEGLECT BY SCHOOL EMPLOYEES.  This Act provides that if after the completion of an investigation of a report that a child has been abused or neglected by a school employee, DCF finds that such abuse or neglect is unsubstantiated:  1) DCF shall notify the Commissioner of Education, the employing superintendent, the employing school or school district and the school employee of its findings; and 2) the SDE and the employing school district shall then remove any references to the report and investigation from the school employee’s personnel records and any other records relating to said employee.

PUBLIC ACT 15-141: AN ACT CONCERNING SECLUSION AND RESTRAINT IN SCHOOLS.  This Act substantially revises the laws on restraint and seclusion in the schools.  Among other things, this Act extends these laws from generally covering special education students to covering all public school students.  The Act specifies that no school employee shall use a physical restraint on a student, or place a student in seclusion except as an emergency intervention to prevent immediate or imminent injury to the student or to others.

H.B. 6949: AN ACT CONCERNING CHILDHOOD VACCINATIONS.  This bill requires a parent seeking to have their child excused from school immunization requirements due to an assertion that such immunization would be contrary to the parent’s or child’s religious beliefs to submit a written statement that must:  1) be notarized by a notary public, attorney admitted to the Connecticut bar, judge, family support magistrate, court clerk or deputy clerk, town clerk, or justice of the peace; and 2) be submitted annually.