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Of Resource Officers, Recycling, and Random Data Collection

A brief review of pending legislation currently awaiting action in the Connecticut legislature:

SB 6489: An Act Concerning a Plan for School Resource Officers.  This law would be effective 7/1/09, but would require by 1/1/10 the Department of Education, Department of Children and Families, the Judicial Department, and the Connecticut School Resource Officer Association to develop a joint plan for resource officer training including the roles and responsibilities of resource officers, relevant state and federal laws (could take a while), security awareness in the school environment, counseling and conflict resolution, disaster and emergency response, deescalation of student behavior including dealing with students with special education needs, child and adolescent psychology and development, cultural competence, and gender-responsive strategies.  This is not to say that the plan would have to be implemented by January 1, 2010 and all training accomplished by that date, just that the plan would need to be established and reported to the legislature by the Department of Education.  However, for districts looking to read the tea-leaves for the types of training that should be provided to school resource officers, the legislature has made the tea, drained the cup, and left it sitting on the table for you.

SB 6665: An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Students on Local and Regional Boards of Education.  Oddly enough, the heading on this bill on the CGA website says that it has something to do with giving students the opportunity to comment and give feedback on bullying occurring in schools.  The language of the bill itself, however, states that at least 2 students from public high schools located in the district shall serve on the board of education as nonvoting members, with the number of students from each high school to be determined by the board and selected through election or some other method prescribed by the board.  Although many school boards do have student advisory members sitting with them in some capacity, it appears that this bill would expand that function and require it for all school boards in the state.

SB 940: An Act Concerning the Reporting of Truancy Data.  This bill would add once again to the reporting requirements of Connecticut General Statutes section 10-220, and require all school districts in the state to report on data related to truancy as a component of “school performance”.  Measures of truancy would include data collected by the Department of Education regarding attendance and unexcused absences in compliance with federal reporting requirements.  The bill also states that such data would be considered a public record for purposes of chapter 14, which indicates a clear intention to make this data available to the public for purposes of gauging local school performance and demanding accountability.  School systems should be reminded of the need for clear definitions of “excused absence” and “unexcused absence” which are generally established locally, so that data reported in compliance with this requirement will be clear, in the event that the bill passes.

SB 947: An Act Concerning High School Credit for Approved Online Coursework.  This bill would amend Connecticut General Statutes section 10-221a and allow local and regional boards of education to adopt policies awarding high school credit for online coursework completed in accordance with the policy.  The policy would need to ensure, minimally, that the workload for the course is equivalent to that of a conventional classroom course, that the content is rigorous and aligned with curriculum guidelines approved by the State Board of Education, that the course engages students and has interactive components, and that the class is taught either by certified teachers (in Connecticut or another state) who have received training in teaching in an online environment, or that the course is offered by an institution of higher education accredited by the Department of Higher Education “or regionally accredited”.  Assuming that school boards start to look at establishing policies permitting the granting of credit for coursework completed online as a result of this legislation, we suggest consideration of how many credits the board believes may be completed in this manner, versus the number required to be completed on campus at the student’s assigned high school, and under what circumstances the school system will consider awarding credit for classes completed in this manner.  For example, may any student apply for credit for work completed online or will in be limited in some way, such as to students required to be homebound for some period of time as a result of injury, illness, or expulsion?  Will there be an application and approval process to be completed in advance, and who will bear the cost associated with taking the class (including the cost of books or other materials)?

RB 1011: An Act Concerning Recycling Programs in Schools.  Would require each school district to develop a recycling plan at each school under the board’s jurisdiction, including recycling receptacles, signage, requirements for appropriate disposal of materials by students and staff, training of custodial staff, and removal by a licensed hauler.  If the district can sell its recyclables on the open market, it can use the funds generated for student activities.

SB 6497: An Act Concerning Educational Stability for Children in Foster Care.  This bill probably deserves its own entry, but for now, I will just say that it would permit children in the care and custody of DCF to remain in attendance at the school the child attended prior to the change in placement (elsewhere known as the “school of origin”) in the event that DCF places the child in a new foster home, and the child will be considered a “resident” of the school district where the school is located during that time.  However, in the event that this provision is used to maintain the child in the school of origin, DCF must pay for transportation from the new foster home back to the school of origin.  There is a statutory presumption that it is in the best interests of the child to remain in the school of origin unless a “party” objects, in which case the court makes the decision and the child remains in the school of origin during the pendency of the dispute.  If the child requires special education, the school of origin must continue to provide and fund those services, subject to the state agency placement reimbursement grant beyond the per pupil expenditure for the prior fiscal year.