Over the past two weeks, Gov. Phil Murphy has signed into law various pieces of legislation that were sent to his desk this past June.  Summarized below are any new enactments that will impact New Jersey’s public school districts and students.

Mandatory Recess S-847/A-4076 (P.L.2018, c.73) requires school districts to provide a daily recess period of at least 20 minutes for students in grades kindergarten through five. The bill also permits denial of recess for a violation of the code of student conduct, but any student denied recess must instead be provided restorative justice activities. “Restorative justice activities” are defined as activities that are designed to improve the socioemotional and behavioral responses of students through the use of more appropriate, and less punitive, interventions thereby establishing a more supportive and inclusive school culture. In addition, a student may not be denied recess more than twice per week. A school district will not be required to provide a recess period on a substantially shortened school day.  Furthermore, districts are prohibited from using the recess period to meet the current statutory requirements regarding the provision of health, safety, and physical education courses. The law went into effect immediately upon the governor’s approval.

The NJDOE issued guidance concerning the new recess law. For any questions on the implementation of this law, contact the New Jersey Department of Education’s Office of Standards via email or telephone at (609) 376-9065.

Expanding Safety Specialist Eligibility A-3765/S-2456 (www.njleg.state.nj.us/2018/Bills/A4000/3765_I1.HTM (P.L.2018, c.100)) permits a superintendent to designate either an administrator or any other school employee with expertise in school safety and security as the district’s school safety specialist. Under the original 2017 law establishing the “New Jersey School Safety Specialist Academy,” a school district superintendent could only designate a “school administrator” as the school safety specialist for the district. This meant that the safety specialist had to hold an administrator’s certificate to serve in the specialist role.  The amended law provides school districts greater flexibility to appoint the most appropriate staffer to serve as the designated school safety specialist, regardless if he or she holds an administrator certificate.

The law takes effect immediately.

Computer Science Endorsement A-2193/S-1816 (P.L.2018, c.81) directs the State Board of Education to authorize a computer science education endorsement to the instructional certificate. The endorsement will authorize the holder to teach computer science in all public schools, and would be required to teach computer science in grades 9-12 once the State Board determines that there are a sufficient number of teachers holding the endorsement to make such a requirement feasible. The bill also includes a “grandfather” provision that becomes operable if and when the State Board makes the computer science endorsement a requirement to teach the subject. That provision will permit an active teacher who can document proficient prior experience teaching computer science to be granted the endorsement.

The law goes into effect immediately.

“Sexting” InstructionA-2189/S-2092 (P.L.2018, c.80) requires school districts to include instruction on the social, emotional, and legal consequences of distributing and soliciting sexually explicit images through electronic means, a practice commonly referred to as “sexting.” The instruction must be provided once during the middle-school grades in an appropriate place in the curriculum as part of the school district’s implementation of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.  In addition, to assist school districts with implementation, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education is directed to provide school districts with age-appropriate sample learning activities and resources.

The new law takes effect at the beginning of the upcoming school year.

Public-Private Partnerships S-865/A-1299 (P.L.2018, c.90) permits school districts and other local and state government entities to enter into public-private partnership agreements with private entities for undertaking certain building and highway infrastructure projects. The bill provides for financial oversight and approval of these agreements by the New Jersey Economic Development Authority.

The new law takes effect 180 days following its enactment.

SHBP/SEHBP Audits A-4228/S-2771 (P.L.2018, c.88) aims to achieve savings in public employer health care costs by requiring the State Health Benefits Commission (SHBC) and the School Employees Health Benefits Commission (SEHBC) to establish audit programs ensuring that all persons in SHBP and SEHBP who are eligible for Medicare have Medicare as their primary provider. SHBP and SEHBP already require members who are at age 65 or have a Social Security Disability at retirement to enroll in Medicare. The bill would extend these requirements to ensure New Jersey does not pay more for people who could be covered under Medicare.

The law goes into effect immediately.