Schoolchildren with reading difficulties in the earliest grades will now have to be screened by their schools for dyslexia and other reading disorders, under a bill signed into law by Gov. Chris Christie.
The bill,, was the last part of a legislative package aimed at improving identification and support of children with the disorder.
Virtually all of the bills in the dyslexia package were signed by the governor over the last several months, albeit some with more conditions attached than others. This bill would require specific screening of students who show signs of dyslexia or other disorders by the end of first semester of second grade.
Backers of the bills said they are an important step toward bringing badly needed resources to students with dyslexia.
“It was the culmination of almost a decade of work on the issue,” said state Sen. Jeff Van Drew (D-Cape May), the primary sponsor. “It was one of a number of bills, and one of the most important. A lot of people thought we couldn’t get it done.”
“This bill and that requiring professional development (for teachers) will make the biggest impact on helping these kids move forward,” said Liz Barnes, a member of Decoding Dyslexia, an advocacy group, and mother of a dyslexic child.
Barnes said the state’s administrative code and guidance provided for implementing the new laws will be the next test. “We’re not done yet, because these laws haven’t gone into action yet,” she said.
The law was among more than 70 bill signings announced by Christie yesterday on the last day of his first term, nearly a dozen of which dealt with education policy. He also announced a series of bills that were not signed and “expired” at the end of the session, including a handful dealing with education matters.
Among those signed were the following:
A law,(S-2886), requiring middle schools to provide instruction on responsible use of social media.
A law,(A-3791), permitting school districts to negotiate up to five years of salaries with its bargaining units, instead of the previous three-year maximum.
A law,(S-2469), creating the crime of cyber-harassment, with a possible sentence of up to five years in prison.
A law(S-3078), establishing a new pilot program in the state Department of Education to select and train veterans for school security positions.
A law,(S-2877), extending the timeline for school districts to complete their annual budgets in cases where the districts have moved to a November election.
Those not signed include:
A bill,(A-2574), establishing measures to reduce steroid use among students.
A bill,(A-2527), establishing a state Dropout Prevention and Reengagement of Out-of-School Youth initiative.
A bill,(S-2418), requiring the training of school bus drivers in interacting with special-needs children.
A bill,(S-2527), that would permit two or more candidates for school board to circulate petitions and be listed on the ballot as a slate.
A bill(S-3098), requiring that school buildings be equipped with emergency “panic buttons” and silent alarms.