ASSEMBLY, No. 1103

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

216th LEGISLATURE

PRE-FILED FOR INTRODUCTION IN THE 2014 SESSION

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman† VALERIE VAINIERI HUTTLE

District 37 (Bergen)

Assemblyman† TROY SINGLETON

District 7 (Burlington)

Assemblyman† DANIEL R. BENSON

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Establishes Office of the Special Education Ombudsman in DOE.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† Introduced Pending Technical Review by Legislative Counsel

 


An Act establishing the Office of the Special Education Ombudsman and supplementing Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.††† a.† There is established in the Department of Education the Office of the Special Education Ombudsman.† The purpose of the ombudsman is to serve as a resource to provide information and support to parents, students, and educators regarding special education rights and services.

†††† b.††† The Commissioner of Education shall appoint a Special Education Ombudsman, who shall be qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office.† The ombudsman shall be a person of recognized judgment, integrity, and objectivity, and shall be skilled in communication, conflict resolution, and professionalism.

†††† c.††† The ombudsman shall organize and direct the work of the office, including the work of such professional and clerical staff as may be necessary to carry out the ombudsmanís duties.

 

†††† 2.††† a.† The duties of the Special Education Ombudsman shall include, but need not be limited to, the following:

†††† (1)†† to serve as a source of information for parents, students, educators, and interested members of the public to help them better understand State and federal laws and regulations governing special education;

†††† (2)†† to provide information and support to parents of students with disabilities in navigating and understanding the process for obtaining special education evaluations and services;

†††† (3)†† to provide information and communication strategies to parents and school districts for resolving a disagreement regarding the identification, evaluation, classification, placement, provision of a free, appropriate public education, or disciplinary action, of a student with a disability; and to educate parents on the available options for resolving such disputes, including due process hearings, mediation, and other alternative dispute resolution processes;

†††† (4)†† to work neutrally and objectively with all parties to help ensure that a fair process is followed and that the special education system functions equitably and as intended;

†††† (5)†† to identify any patterns of complaints that emerge regarding special education rights and services, and to recommend strategies for improvement to the Department of Education;

†††† (6)†† to assist the Department of Education in creating public information programs designed to acquaint and educate parents and the public about the ombudsmanís duties; and

†††† (7)†† to serve as a resource for disability-related information and referrals to other available programs and services for individuals with disabilities, including early intervention and transition to adult life.

†††† b.††† The ombudsman shall treat communications received in the course of his duties, including personally identifiable information regarding students, parents, and others from whom information is acquired, as confidential, except when disclosure is necessary to enable the ombudsman to perform the duties of the office and consent for disclosure is obtained.† Upon receipt of information that by law is confidential or privileged, the ombudsman shall maintain the confidentiality of such information and shall not disclose or disseminate the information except as provided by applicable State or federal law.

 

†††† 3.††† The Special Education Ombudsman shall make an annual report to the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education, which includes a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year, and any specific recommendations the ombudsman deems appropriate and necessary concerning the Stateís implementation of special education procedures and services.

 

†††† 4.††† This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill establishes the Office of the Special Education Ombudsman in the Department of Education, which will serve as a resource to provide information and support to parents, students, and educators regarding special education rights and services.† Under the bill, the Commissioner of Education will appoint a Special Education Ombudsman who is qualified by training and experience to perform the duties of the office.† The ombudsman will also be skilled in communication, conflict resolution, and professionalism.

†††† The duties of the Special Education Ombudsman will include, at a minimum, the following: (1) to serve as a source of information regarding State and federal laws and regulations governing special education; (2) to provide information and support to parents of students with disabilities in navigating and understanding the process for obtaining special education evaluations and services; (3) to provide information and communication strategies to parents and school districts for resolving disagreements concerning special education issues, and to educate parents on the available options for resolving such disputes; (4) to work neutrally and objectively with all parties to help ensure that a fair process is followed and that the special education system functions equitably and as intended; (5) to identify any patterns of complaints that emerge regarding special education rights and services, and to recommend strategies for improvement to the Department of Education; (6) to assist the department in creating public information programs that educate parents and the public about the ombudsmanís duties; and (7) to serve as a resource for disability-related information and referrals to other available programs and services for individuals with disabilities, including early intervention and transition to adult life.† The bill provides that the ombudsman will treat communications received in the course of his duties as confidential.

†††† The bill directs the Special Education Ombudsman to make an annual report to the State Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education that includes a summary of the services the ombudsman provided during the year and recommendations concerning the Stateís implementation of special education procedures and services.