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Turner, Ruiz Bill to Establish School Bus Aide/Special Needs Student Ratio Advances

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senate Education Committee Vice Chair Shirley K. Turner and Chair M. Teresa Ruiz, to require a minimum of one school bus aide for every 15 special needs students on school buses advanced from the Senate Transportation Committee today.

“This bill addresses my concern for those students who are often the most vulnerable on our school buses.  Having an aide on board prevents their being victimized by other students’ bullying and bad or abusive behavior, and also protects them in cases of emergency,” said Senator Turner (D-Hunterdon/Mercer).  “Bus drivers cannot be charged with watching the road and watching our children at the same time.  These children deserve the careful attention of trained professional aides and every bit of protection we can offer.”

“As some of the most vulnerable in our society we must ensure that special needs children are being properly cared for while traveling to and from school,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex). “Requiring this student to aide ratio will help keep these students safe, and protect them from any potential harm.”

Under the bill, a board of education or a contracted service provider that provides pupil transportation services must ensure that a school bus has on board at least one school bus aide for every 15 students with special needs. The bill, S-859, requires this aide-to-student ratio to be maintained at all times when a school bus is transporting students with special needs or a combination of students with special needs and general education students.

For purposes of this bill, a “student with special needs” is a student who is classified as eligible for special education programs and services, but does not include a student who is classified as eligible for special education programs and services solely on the basis of a “specific learning disability,” as that term is defined in the federal “Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.”

Once signed into law, the legislation would take effect immediately and apply to the first full school year following the date of enactment.

The bill was approved by a 5-0 vote.