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Assembly Democratic Bill to Ensure Safety of Special Needs Students on School Buses Clears Assembly Panel

Bill sponsored by Muoio, Benson, Vainieri Huttle, Gusciora, Caputo, Zwicker & Eustace

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Elizabeth Muoio, Daniel Benson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Reed Gusciora, Ralph Caputo, Andrew Zwicker and Tim Eustace to protect special needs students who ride school buses was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

This bill (A-4332) would establish a minimum ratio of school bus aides to special needs students on a school bus. The bill is in response to a series of assaults that occurred on school buses in the Trenton School District, including incidents against young children with special needs.

“This is a parents’ worst nightmare,” said Muoio (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “Students with special needs are especially vulnerable, as they may be seen as easy targets. This helps ensure there is adequate supervision on school buses to help prevent such a terrible incident from happening again.”

Under the bill, a board of education or a contractor that provides pupil transportation services under contract with a board of education must ensure that a school bus has at least one school bus aide on board for every 15 students with special needs. The aide-to-student ratio must be maintained at all times when a school bus is transporting students with special needs or a combination of students with special needs and general education students.

“We cannot be lax when it comes to the safety and security of our children,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “This can help prevent such unfortunate incidents by ensuring there is always an adult on a school bus who can monitor student behavior and step in when problems arise.”

“Parents who have no other means to get their children to school should not have to worry every time their child gets on a school bus,” said Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen). “Providing the necessary supervision on school buses to ensure the safety of all students should be a top priority.”

“We have a responsibility to students and the parents who trust us with their well-being,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “What occurred on those buses should have never happened. Having ample coverage on school buses can help deter such behavior and help keep student safe.”

“We can’t expect bus drivers to supervise students while keeping their eyes on the road,” said Caputo (D-Essex). “Making sure that there is sufficient oversight on school buses can help prevent such attacks, and help ensure the overall safety of our most vulnerable students.”

“We must protect students who might be more vulnerable to attacks,” said Zwicker (D-Somerset/Mercer/Middlesex/Hunterdon). “Children should not have to forfeit their safety when they get on the school bus. This can help prevent such reprehensible incidents and keep students safe.”

“Parents should feel comfortable knowing that when their children board the school bus, they will be safe,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Expecting children to supervise themselves is impractical. This can help ensure that kids get to and from school without incident.”

The bill would take effect immediately.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.