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Senator Linda Greenstein, D-Middlesex and Mercer, addresses the State Senate after being sworn in to office.

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Linda Greenstein and M. Teresa Ruiz that would require the development of a training program for school bus drivers and aides on interacting with students with special needs was signed into law today.

The law, S-274/A-1029, requires the Commissioner of Education to develop a training program that includes appropriate behavior management, effective communication, the use and operation of adaptive equipment, and understanding behavior that may be related to specific disabilities.

“Working with children who have special needs is particularly challenging, and in order to provide the children with the level of care that they require and deserve, proper training is in order for those directly involved in their care,” said Senator Greenstein (D-Mercer, Middlesex). “This training will also provide school bus drivers and aides with the skills and confidence they need to interact effectively and safely with special needs children in their care.”

Once the training program is made available, boards of education and school bus contractors that provide student transportation services under contract with boards of education are required to administer the training program to all school bus drivers and school bus aides that they employ. They are also required to retain a copy of the certification for each driver or aide for the duration of his or her employment and forward a copy to the Department of Education.

“Parents are entrusting school bus drivers and aides not only to safely transport their children to school and back, but to effectively communicate with them during the journey to address their needs,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Training those who work closely with children who have disabilities will provide them with a deeper understanding of the students’ needs and the tools to better address them with compassion.”

Under the law, the Commissioner of Education is also directed to develop a student information card which includes information on the purpose of promoting proper interaction with a student with special needs. The card would be completed by the parent or guardian of the student who receives transportation services following the development of an individualized education plan (IEP). With the parent or guardian’s consent, the student information card would be provided to the school bus driver and aide assigned to the child’s route.

The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 32-0 and the Assembly with a vote of 77-0. The law takes effect immediately.

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