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CPAC’s Review of Bills from the 2019 Legislative Session

June 28th, 2019


Another session of the Connecticut State Legislature has come to an end. All in all we think that a number of bills favorable to students with disabilities were passed by both the House and Senate and as of this writing are waiting for the Governor’s signature. We want to give highlights from some of the bills we found most important.

Before this we want to recognize the large number of parents, students and supporters who came out and gave their time to testify to committees and to reach out to their legislators in support of legislation to help students. Your contributions went a long way towards helping these bills through and you should be proud of your efforts. An addition, we want to recognize the groups that came out and worked, including those supporting people with specific disabilities, parent advocacy organizations, teachers, and school administrators. We also want to recognize the hard work and serious attention to these issues by members of the House of Representatives and the State Senate. The students of Connecticut will have better access to appropriate education because of your work.

Space only allows us to give brief descriptions of each of these Acts. If you have more questions please review the actual bills and don’t hesitate to call us at 860-739-3089 or email at cpac@cpacinc.org.

Links to each of the bills are included below each description.

The bills we were following are:

SB 1067 an Act Establishing a Task Force to Analyze the Implementation of Laws Governing Dyslexia Instruction And Training.

This bill establishes a task force to determine if current rules on teacher preparation to meet the needs of students with dyslexia are being followed, and to make recommendations on professional development and support for teachers to address the needs of students with dyslexia and other reading challenges.

The task force is to have eleven members, three of whom are parents of students with dyslexia and one who is a representative of an organization that works for such students. We were very happy to have such a significant family role in the process. While strongly supporting the bill we did propose that the task force should have included an adult with dyslexia.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/sa/pdf/2019SA-00008-R00SB-01067-SA.pdf

HB 7168 an Act Concerning Transitional Services for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

This bill changes the age at which the PPT for a student who is identified autistic must begin establishing a plan for a student’s transition from school to work, post secondary education, or adult life from 16 to 14. Starting transition planning early is always a good idea regardless of the student’s disability but we are concerned about a law that separates out a service for students with a single disability classification. We will continue to encourage all PPTs to begin transition planning early enough to support the individual needs and aspirations of every student.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/pa/pdf/2019PA-00049-R00HB-07168-PA.pdf

HB 7215 An Act Concerning School Climate

This bill does three things. First it establishes a state social emotional learning school climate advisory collaborative to collect information and advise schools on best practices for fostering safe school climates, to explore ways to address teen suicide, to collect information from schools and to monitor their efforts to improve school climate and social and emotional learning. CPAC is among the stakeholders appointed to the collaborative.

The bill also provides new or expanded definitions for several terms including bullying, safe school climate, social and emotional learning, emotional intelligence, and Positive school climate.

Finally it expands and redefines the role of each Board of Education to develop and implement a safe school climate plan to address the existence of bullying and teen dating violence in its schools.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/pa/pdf/2019PA-00166-R00HB-07215-PA.pdf

HB 7353 an Act Concerning the Provision of Special Education.

This bill has a number of provisions over a wide range of issues related to special education.

First Section 1 prohibits schools from retaliating against educators who speak out for students during PPT meetings. For years we have heard from many teachers and parents that there is a fear among school staff to disagree with recommendations or conclusions that are presented during a PPT meeting because they might be subject to discipline or other work problems for doing so. We believe this section will be helpful in fostering a climate of collaboration, transparency, and thoughtful consideration of information by Planning and Placement Teams.

Section 2 establishes a working group to look at the issues faced by children who have left Birth to Three, but are not yet eligible for kindergarten. We see problems in this area daily and have set up our Preschool Pathfinder program to help families who have concerns in this area so we are happy that a task force will be looking at the area. Unfortunately, the bill neglects to include either parents or organizations that represent families in its membership. We hope and trust the Task force will reach out to the parents of children in this age range to help craft effective recommendations.

Sections 3 through 5 concern students who are deaf or hard of hearing and require that all students, including those on Section 504 plans have a language and communication plan included in their IEP or 504 plan. It also requires that an emergency notification plan be created for each of these students to ensure they will be made aware of a school emergency.

Section 6 requires the Department of Education to develop new guidelines to evaluate the language development of students who are deaf, hard of hearing, or who have a visual impairment and hearing loss.

Section 7 establishes a requirement for notification of parents whose child has been identified as gifted or talented,

Section 8 requires school district to reimburse magnet schools for the increased cost of providing accommodations under a Section 504 plan incurred by the districts’ students.

Section 9 directs the Department of Education to look into the issues related to having private therapists provide services for students with disabilities during the school day.

Finally Section 10 requires private schools that have students placed in them to notify the sending school districts of any complaints of mistreatment of students in the school.

https://www.cga.ct.gov/2019/ACT/pa/pdf/2019PA-00184-R00HB-07353-PA.pdf

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