PA 14-172—sSB 106

Human Services Committee

Education Committee

Labor and Public Employees Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING IMPROVING EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES THROUGH EDUCATION AND ENSURING SAFE SCHOOL CLIMATES

SUMMARY: This act (1) makes several changes in the responsibilities of school districts to address bullying, (2) allows educational courses to qualify as a Temporary Family Assistance (TFA) work activity, and (3) establishes a competitive early childhood grant program.

Concerning bullying, it requires separate meetings with the parents or guardians of a bullying victim and those of his or her assailants, rather than a combined meeting, and makes related minor and conforming changes.

The act requires the social services (DSS) and labor (DOL) commissioners to permit a TFA recipient to take educational courses as part of the requirements of his or her employability plan. They must do so as long as the (1) state complies with federal work participation requirements for the employment services program and (2) education courses are approved by the DOL commissioner. The act specifies the types of courses the commissioner can approve.

Finally, the act allows the Office of Early Childhood (OEC) to offer a grant for up to three alliance school districts to develop and implement a strategy to promote the social and emotional well-being and health of children from age three to third grade. If the office offers this grant, it must do so in collaboration with the State Department of Education (SDE). The program must focus on instructional tools and family engagement. Funds for this grant may come from public, private, federal, or philanthropic sources. Up to 5% of the grant funds can be used to pay administrative costs.

Alliance districts are the 30 lowest-performing school districts, as identified by the SDE commissioner.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2014

BULLYING

Safe School Climate Plans

By law, each local and regional board of education must develop and implement a safe school climate plan to address bullying in its schools. Under prior law, the plan required a school to invite the parents or guardians of (1) a student who commits a verified act of bullying and (2) the victim to a meeting to discuss the measures the school was taking to ensure the victim's safety and prevent further bullying. The act instead requires that the bully's parents or guardians be invited to a meeting, separate from the one held with the victim's parents or guardians, to discuss specific interventions the school has undertaken to prevent further bullying.

By law, the plan must require the safe school climate specialist to investigate or supervise the investigation of all reports of bullying and ensure that such investigation is completed promptly. The act additionally requires that the parents or guardians of the alleged bully and alleged victim receive prompt notice that such investigation has begun.

The act requires that the annual notice to be provided under the plan to students and their parents or guardians on how students can anonymously report bullying be provided at the beginning of each school year.

Bullying Intervention and School Climate Improvement Strategy

By law, the plan must include a “prevention and intervention strategy. ” The act allows the strategy to include, in addition to the already authorized components, culturally competent school-based curricula on social-emotional learning, self-awareness, and self-regulation.

By law, the strategy may include interventions for the bullied child. The act defines these to include (1) referrals to a school counselor, psychologist, or other appropriate social or mental health services and (2) periodic follow-up by the safe school climate specialist with the child. The act allows funding for the strategy to come from public, private, federal, or philanthropic sources.

TAKING COURSES TO MEET TFA REQUIREMENTS

Unless exempt, able-bodied adults in households receiving TFA must engage in work activity as a condition of receiving TFA. Federal law allows specified educational programs to count as work activity.

By law, DSS must assess each person found eligible for time-limited TFA benefits to develop an employability plan for him or her. DSS must then refer the person to DOL which, with the regional workforce development board, must finalize the plan and identify the services the person needs to fulfill the plan (CGS 17b-689c).

Under the act, the DSS and DOL commissioners must permit a TFA recipient to take education courses as part of the requirements of the recipient's employability plan as long as the (1) state complies with federal work participation requirements for the state's employment services program and (2) education courses are approved under the act.

The act allows the DOL commissioner, in consultation with the DSS commissioner, to approve education courses as required employment activities for a TFA recipient to the extent permissible under federal law. Eligible courses may include (1) two- or four-year college degree programs and (2) high school graduate equivalency degree or basic education programs for recipients otherwise ineligible to enroll in these programs during their first 20 hours per week of required employment activities.

The act requires the DOL commissioner, in consultation with the DSS commissioner, to implement policies and procedures to establish (1) which programs qualify as an approved employment activity and (2) enrollment and academic requirements for students who are TFA recipients. The DOL commissioner must implement these policies and procedures while adopting them as regulations, as long as he provides notice of intent to adopt the regulations within 20 days of implementing the interim policies and procedures.

The interim policies and procedures are valid until the final regulations take effect.

The act cannot be construed as requiring the state to pay the tuition of any TFA recipient.

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