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Assembly Panel Approves Spencer, Sumter & Holley to Provide Alternative Education Programs for High Schoolers Battling Addiction

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats L. Grace Spencer, Shavonda Sumter and Jamel Holley to create alternative education programs for high schools students who are recovering from substance abuse was released Monday by an Assembly panel.

“A typical school setting may not be best option for students who are dealing with an addiction where they can easily fall back into old habits,” said Spencer (D-Essex). “Recovery high schools offer a safe and sober alternative where these students can focus on their studies and their recovery.”

“Breaking the chains of addiction can be very difficult,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “For many, recovery is a life-long journey. Putting these students in an environment that is free of temptation and that caters specifically to their dependency issues can help them stay on course.”

“Students battling addiction have a better chance of staying clean if they are in a setting that is conducive to that,” said Holley (D-Union). “If we want these students to be academically successful and have a chance at a good life, we must address their addiction struggles, as well as their education.”

The bill (A-4878) authorizes a school district to establish alternative education programs, including recovery high school alternative education programs, upon the approval of the board of education.

A recovery high school alternative education program is defined as an alternative education program that serves students diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency as defined by the most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and that provides a comprehensive four-year high school education in an alternative public school setting and a structured plan of recovery that is aligned with the national framework of evidence-based practices for recovery high schools.

Under the bill’s provisions, a sending district may enter into an agreement with a school district that has established a recovery high school alternative education program for the provision of services to a student who is currently enrolled in the sending district. If the student is admitted to the recovery high school alternative education program, the sending district will pay tuition to that district.

The bill was approved by the Assembly Education Committee.