Trenton – A bill sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator James Beach that would permit public school students in grades six through 12 one excused absence per school year in order to attend a civic event was released from the Senate Education Committee.
School districts across the state would also be permitted to provide additional excused absences for such purposes. Excused absences taken under the legislation would not be reflected on student attendance records.
“While our students learn much through classroom discussion and in their readings about the workings of government, and may also be made aware of public issues that concern their communities, there are some things that can only be learned through direct participation and civic engagement,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), Chair of the Education Committee.
“By encouraging our young people to participate in these civic events and activities, we will be making them better persons and better-informed citizens, and will be making our democracy stronger.”
Under the bill, S-2304, a “civic event” would be defined as “event sponsored by a government entity, a community-based organization, or a nonprofit organization that incorporates elements of service learning whereby students learn and develop through organized service. A civic event shall address an issue of public concern such as community health and safety or environmental, economic, or community well-being.”
“If we want to make sure our institutions continue to answer to the needs and concerns of the people they serve, we have to expose students at a young age to the ways we are governed, and to the process of civic engagement. This bill will provide a uniform absence policy that allows students to get outside the classroom and to see for themselves just how their government works, and give them greater insights about how public policy impacts their lives,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden/Burlington).
The New Jersey High School Democrats, the New Jersey High School Republicans, and the Young Ecosocialists of the Green Party of New Jersey have all been actively involved in support of the legislation.