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Addiego-Sweeney Bill Would Protect Students with Disabilities from Losing Educational Support Services Due To COVID Crisis

Trenton – Acting to protect students with disabilities from losing out on the special education services they need because of the coronavirus crisis, the Senate Education Committee today approved a bill authored by Senator Dawn Addiego and Senate President Steve Sweeney that would temporarily extend the timetable for those who exceed the age eligibility.

“The public health crisis has disrupted school operations and educational services for most every student, but the upheaval has been especially difficult for students with disabilities,” said Senator Addiego (D-Atlantic/Burlington/Camden). “The quality of education and the special services they need, deserve and are entitled to have been cut short by COVID-19 conditions. This bill will temporarily extend the age deadline so they can make up for time lost to the crisis.”

The bill, S-3434, would require boards of education to extend educational and related services in the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years these students are already entitled to – protecting them from being “aged out” of eligibility when they turn 21.

“Every student deserves a fair and equitable opportunity to a quality education, including young people with disabilities,” Senator Sweeney (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “They are experiencing real hardships because of the crisis conditions that make it hard for them to participate in the services and activities that will enable them to realize their potential. These educational programs are key to their quality of life.”

Schools are now required to provide students with disabilities an “appropriate public education” from age three to 21 in accordance with an “individualized education program” that addresses their needs.

If a student turns 21 during the school year, he or she is entitled to finish the year. But, on June 30 of the student’s final school year, the student is no longer eligible for the educational services in a process commonly referred to as “aging out.”

This bill would extend the age eligibility to students who reach the age of 21 during the 2020-2021 and 2021-2022 school years to the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, respectively. Unless otherwise provided in the student’s IEP, he or she would not be eligible to receive these services beyond the year in which they reach the age of 22.