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2009 Legislative Session Closes with Seventeen Education Related Bills Passed; New Legislation Requires Boards to Take on More Responsibilities for Student Health, Safety and Environmental Related Issues in Schools

The 2009 Connecticut General Assembly has adjourned leaving in its wake seventeen new legislative acts pertaining to education. The 2009 legislation passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor focuses largely on health, safety and environmental related issues among other areas and ranges from an act requiring the use of green cleaning products in the schools to one governing the regulation of the use of asthmatic inhalers and epi-pens in schools by students to another requiring boards to have defibrillators in each of its schools to those of a more mundane nature like the one passed regarding uniform reporting forms for preschool and child care programs. Here is a summary of some of the more interesting bills passed during the 2009 regular session:

*PA 09-131 signed by the Governor June 18, 2009 effective October 1, 2009, requires, rather than allows, boards once every three month, to substitute crisis response drills for the monthly fire drills required in schools under their jurisdiction. The crisis response drill format must be developed in consultation with law enforcement and allow a representative from such agency to supervise and participate in the drill. Boards must also conduct a fire drill no later than 30 days after the first day of the school year and at least once per month thereafter.

*PA 09-94 signed by the Governor on June 2, 2009 effective July 1, 2009 requires boards of education on and after July 1, 2010 to have at each of its schools, if funding is available, an automatic external defibrillator (AED) and school staff trained in its use and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Such equipment and staff shall be accessible during the school’s normal operational hours, during school-sponsored athletic practices and athletic events taking place on school grounds and during school sponsored events not occurring during the normal operational hours of the school. Schools generally and those having athletic departments are further required to develop an emergency action response plan addressing appropriate use of school personnel to respond to individuals experiencing sudden cardiac arrest or similar life-threatening emergencies. Related legislation, *PA 09-59, signed June 5, 2009, grants immunity in a lawsuit for damages for acts arising out of a person’s or entity’s negligence in providing or maintaining an AED except for instances of gross, willful or wanton negligence.

*PA 09-81 signed by the Governor on June 11, 2009, effective 10/1/09, requires each local and regional board of education to implement a green cleaning program by July 1, 2011 in schools to help ensure a healthier air quality for students, faculty and staff. The act requires school districts to use cleaning products inside their schools that meet guidelines or standards set by the Department of Administrative Services in consultation with the Commissioner of Environmental Protection. The act also places a number of new reporting requirements on districts pertaining to the green cleaning programs. In commenting on this legislation, Governor Jodi Rell is quoted as saying ”It is about time we cleared the air. This signals the end of harsh, toxic chemical cleaners used around generations of schoolchildren”.

*PA 09-199 effective September 1, 2009 requires the Department of Safety to notify, via electronic mail, the superintendent of schools in a community when a sex offender is released into such community.

*PA 09-155 effective requires the State Department of Education to adopt regulations to permit children diagnosed with either asthma or an allergic condition to retain possession of asthmatic inhalers and automatic pre-filled cartridge injectors at all times while attending school provided a written authorization for self-medication signed by the child’s parent or guardian and an authorized prescriber is submitted to the school nurse. This act also requires boards to make available on either the board or each school’s web site the district’s plan for managing students with life-threatening food allergies. If such web sites do not exist, the board must make the plan publicly available by some other means that it selects. The act further requires boards to provide notice to parents/guardians about the plans along with a written statement about pesticide applications as required by 10-231c.

A comprehensive list of the 2009 education -related bills that were approved by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor can be found on the Connecticut State Department of Education website.