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Ruiz Bill Creating Special Education Ombudsman On Governor’s Desk

Sen. M. Teresa Ruiz (D-Essex) testifies in support of legislation that provides in-state tuition to undocumented young adults.

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 on the governor’s desk. The bill received final approval in the Assembly this week.

“Families can find it overwhelming to navigate the various special education programs and services provided in New Jersey schools, which often are governed by complex rules and regulations,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “This new office would serve as a resource to parents, students and others for information about special education services and would provide support to families to help them understand their rights. This will help to make the process of dealing with the special education system less cumbersome for families and also ensure fairness in the process.”

Under the bill (S451), the office would serve as a resource to provide information and support to parents, students, and educators regarding special education rights and services. The Commissioner of Education would 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 bill 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 in December; it was approved in the Assembly on Monday by a vote of 73-2-4.