OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7276 (as amended by House "A")*

AN ACT CONCERNING EDUCATION MANDATE RELIEF.

SUMMARY

This bill alters or eliminates several state mandates placed upon local and regional boards of education (hereinafter “boards”). Among other things, the bill:

1. allows, rather than requires, boards to follow a unified regional school calendar ( 1);

2. expands the type of alternative education for expelled students that boards must offer ( 2 & 3);

3. reduces the number of school employees who must receive training in student restraint and seclusion and makes other changes to the training requirements ( 5); and

4. shortens the former employer lookback period that boards of education must consider when conducting background checks of prospective employees ( 6).

It also requires the State Department of Education (SDE) to conduct a survey of digital reporting software use by school districts ( 4).

It also makes a number of conforming and technical changes.

*House Amendment “A” modifies the provision regarding training in restraint and seclusion by (1) specifying that all members of the crisis intervention team must receive training rather than the underlying bill's requirement of all teachers, administrators, and paraprofessionals, who have direct contact with students; (2) providing that the training be given yearly rather than phased in over a three-year period as in current law; and (3) delays, from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, the deadline to implement a training plan.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017, except the alternative education for expelled students section is effective August 15, 2017 and the requirement for the State Board of Education (SBE) to develop alternative education standards is effective upon passage.

1 — UNIFORM REGIONAL SCHOOL CALENDAR

For school years beginning July 1, 2017 and thereafter, the bill allows, rather than requires, boards to adopt a uniform regional school calendar developed by its respective regional education service center (RESC). Under current law, all boards had to adopt such a uniform calendar starting with the 2016-17 school year, or starting with the 2017-18 school year if existing employee contracts prevented implementation in 2016-17. By law, the calendar is developed according to guidelines set by the legislature (see BACKGROUND).

The bill requires the education commissioner to report to the Education Committee on which boards have chosen to adopt the regional calendar and any legislative recommendations by July 1, 2017 and annually thereafter. Under current law the commissioner must report annually on the mandated adoption.

2 & 3 — ALTERNATIVE EDUCATION FOR EXPELLED STUDENTS

Under current law, a board must provide to any expelled student under age 16 an alternative educational opportunity during the expulsion period equivalent to 180 school days and 900 hours of school work. The bill modifies this so that a board must provide the above mentioned 900 hours if the board offers it, but if it does not, it can offer an alternative educational opportunity in accordance with standards the bill requires SBE to adopt no later than August 15, 2017. The standards must include, but are not limited to, the kind of instruction and number of hours to be provided.

4 — SURVEY OF DIGITAL REPORTING SOFTWARE

By January 1, 2018, the bill requires SDE to conduct a survey of local and regional boards of education regarding their use of digital school management and reporting software. The survey must include questions on whether a board uses a digital school management and reporting software for creating, submitting, and sharing digital copies of education-related documents with SDE and among authorized users.

It must also include questions addressing whether the software:

1. allows authorized users to create and submit a complete digital copy of education-related documents to the portal and share the copy with (a) SDE and (b) a board of education when a student transfers;

2. provides 24-hour access for an unlimited number of authorized users;

3. allows boards to purchase supplement programs; and

4. protects student privacy when an education-related document is created, submitted, and shared using the reporting software from unauthorized access, destruction, use, modification or disclosure in accordance with industry standards.

SDE must compile the survey results and submit a report on its findings to the Education Committee. The report must include any recommendations, based on the results, regarding the statewide implementation of a uniform school management and reporting software.

The bill defines “education-related documents” as a student's education records and any report required under state education law, including the strategic school profile report and data included by law in the statewide public school information system.

5 — RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION TRAINING

The bill reduces the number of school district employees who are required to receive training and professional development in physical restraint and seclusion of students.

It eliminates the requirement that all school professionals, administrators, and paraprofessionals be trained in the proper means of student restraint and seclusion. It instead requires all members of the crisis intervention team, which is defined as any teacher, administrator, and paraprofessional, who (1) has direct contact with students and (2) the principal designates to receive training. It also requires each board to maintain a list of crisis intervention team members for each school.

The bill permits boards to train any other teacher, administrator, or paraprofessional, or school employee. It defines “school employee” to include substitute teachers, superintendents, guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, nurses, physicians, or coaches employed by a board, or any other employee who, in the regular performance of his or her duties, has regular contact with students.

It also extends from July 1, 2015 to July 1, 2017, the date to begin training and eliminates the provision that phases in the training over three years. It delays by one year, from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018, the deadline for boards to implement district-level training and prevention plans.

Under the bill, the training must include information on the proper use of physical restraint and seclusion, as well as an annual overview of relevant laws and regulations regarding its use on students as required under current law.

Current law requires the training to include plans for school boards to provide school professionals, paraprofessional staff, and administrators with training and professional development on preventing incidents that require restraint and seclusion and the proper means of physically restraining or secluding a student. The bill delays the deadlines for the plans' implementation from July 1, 2017 to July 1, 2018 and eliminates the references to professional development.

The bill makes a conforming change by defining a crisis intervention team as one that includes teachers, administrators, school paraprofessionals, or other school employees who have direct contact with students and are designated by the school principal. Currently, the team must include school professionals, paraprofessionals, and administrators who have been trained in physical restraint and seclusion.

6 — BACKGROUND CHECKS AND FORMER EMPLOYERS

By law, local or regional boards of education, charter school governing councils, and magnet school operators must require certain information from any job applicant who would have direct student contact in the prospective position. The law requires the board to conduct employment history checks of all such applicants, including directly contacting former employers if they were boards of education or employed the applicant in a position that included direct contact with children. The bill narrows the definition of former employer to include only those the applicant has worked for in the previous 20 years prior to applying. Current law does not establish any limit on how far back the employment history check must go.

BACKGROUND

Uniform Regional School Calendar Task Force and Guidelines

By law, RESCs had to develop guidelines for uniform regional calendars and boards of education were given a deadline to adopt a conforming calendar that had to include the following:

1. at least 180 days of sessions in a school year (as already required by law);

2. a common start date for students of the last Wednesday in August, with a three-day flexible window before or after that Wednesday;

3. uniform days for statutorily required professional development and in-service training for certified employees;

4. up to three uniform school vacation periods during each school year, of which up to two must be one-week vacations and one must be during the summer;

5. Election Day in November as a professional development day when no students attend school; and

6. five flexible days for individual district needs.

RESCs

Each of the six RESCs in the state serves a different geographical region. The RESCs provide various services to local and regional boards of education.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Education Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

30

Nay

2

(03/24/2017)