Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that is designed to provide stability in Special Education programming. Assembly ill 2739 was sponsored by Daniel Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Connie Wagner (D-Bergen-Passaic), and Pamela Lampitt (D- Camden/Burlington). The Senate version, bill number 1949, was sponsored by Robert Gordon (D-Bergen/Passaic) and Theresa Ruiz (D-Essex).

The catalyst for the new law stemmed from complaints from parents that their children with developmental disabilities were subject to continued transfer of schools and locations, leading to abrupt changes in their educational programs. It was also pointed out by parents that students with autism, in particular, did not respond well to sudden changes in routine.

The new law directs the State Board of Education to create rules and regulations that will require that the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) include consistency in location, as well as programming. One of the major concerns was that students with Autism and other developmental disabilities suffer from regression as a result of abrupt changes.

According to the new law:

“The State Board of Education shall promulgate regulations to require school districts to develop a plan to establish stability in special education programming. The plan shall take into account the consistency of the location, curriculum, and staffing in the provision of special education programs and services. The State board regulations shall also require that when developing an individualized education program (IEP) with the parent or guardian of a student who is prone to regression due to frequent changes in location including, but not limited to, students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, the IEP team shall consider, among other factors, the consistency of the location of services and that the parent’s preference of location be given primary consideration against other factors when determining in-district special education placements.”

Many students with developmental disabilities are served in “out-of-district” placements. Such students with severe disabilities are often educated in private special education schools to which they are bused for long distances. In fact, it is not unusual for a student with a severe disability to spend up to three hours per day in round trip traveling to an out-of-district placement and home.

Benson, Wagner and Lampitt, along with the support of Gordon and Ruiz in the Senate, have recognized that the concerns that parents have voiced need to be addressed. The new law will go into effect within 90 days.