Ruiz, Madden Bill Package to Address Sexual Abuse in Schools Advances

TRENTON – A package of bills sponsored by Senate Education Chair M. Teresa Ruiz and Senate Labor Chair Fred Madden that would prevent sexual abuse in schools cleared the Senate today.

“Advocates, practitioners, and experts who testified at our joint committee hearing made it clear that New Jersey needed to do better,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “By monitoring teacher misconduct, and offering professional development for our educators, we are working to ensure safe environments for our children. When in school, students should be able to learn and grow, without fear of abuse or harassment.”

“Our hope is that this legislation will begin to address the problem of child abuse in schools, and offer a strong foundation to continue to improve our policies going forward,” said Senator Madden (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Creating the task force and closely monitoring the frequency of incidences will allow us to assess the impact of this legislation and continue to improve upon our efforts.”

One bill, S-2711, would require all teaching certificate candidates to receive training on the recognition of, and requirement to report, child abuse and sexual abuse. Beginning in the 2019-2020 school year, anyone seeking certification through the alternate route would be required to complete the program within one year of being employed. Beginning with the 2020-2021 school year this would be required of all newly certified teachers coming out of college programs.

A related bill, S-2713, would require the Department of Education to collect data from each school district on teacher misconduct, including how many teachers were disciplined due to charges of sexual abuse, or harassment. Annually, after collecting the data a report would be issued to the Legislature.

A third bill, S-2714, would require school districts to notify the state board of examiners if it is determined that a teaching staff member has failed to report an allegation of child abuse in the proper manner.

The final bill, S-2715, would require the attorney general, along with the commissioner of education, to review protocols related to the retention of video surveillance from schools security systems. They would address how long video footage is retained, how to limit access to footage and ensure that all protocols comply with the federal “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act”.

The bills passed by votes of 40-0, 39-0, 39-0 and 40-0 respectively.