Ruiz Bill Creating Special Education Ombudsman Now Law

Senator Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex and Union, speaks on a point of personal privilege on the Senate floor.

 TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz to establish the Office of the Special Education Ombudsman in the Department of Education is now law.

“Navigating the special education programs that are provided within our school districts can often be overwhelming for families,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This new office will serve as a resource to parents, students and others for information about the services offered and will provide support to families to help them understand their rights. Ultimately, it will help to make the process of dealing with the special education system less cumbersome for families while at the same time ensuring fairness in the process.”

Under the law (S451), the office will serve as a resource to provide information and support to parents, students, and educators regarding special education rights and services. The Commissioner of Education will appoint a Special Education Ombudsman who is qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office.  The ombudsman will also be skilled in communication, conflict resolution, and professionalism.

The law directs the Special Education Ombudsman to make an annual report to the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education that includes a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year and recommendations concerning the State’s implementation of special education procedures and services.

The bill was approved in the Senate by a vote of 34-0; it was approved in the Assembly by a vote of 73-2-4. The governor signed it into law today.