(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Dan Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex), Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) and Mila Jasey (D-Essex/Morris) to prevent accidental mistreatment by creating a training program for school bus drivers and aides on how to interact with students with special needs was approved Monday by the General Assembly.
“Children with special needs require specialized attention and care. Bus drivers and aides should be aware of behaviors associated with certain disabilities, and know how to effectively deal with them so to avoid any confusion and accidental mistreatment of these students,” said Benson. “It makes their job easier and ensures that these students are being treated with the respect they deserve.”
The bill (A-3559) requires that the Commissioner of Education develop a training program for school bus drivers and school bus aides on interacting with students with special needs. The training program would include appropriate behavior management, effective communication, the use and operation of adaptive equipment, and understanding behavior that may be related to specific disabilities. Once the program is made available, boards of education and school bus contractors that provide student transportation services under contract with boards of education would be required to administer the training program to all school bus drivers and school bus aides that they employ.
“Knowing how to operate a school bus and knowing traffic laws is not enough,” said Vainieri Huttle. “These bus drivers and aides are responsible for these children. And not just for getting them to school safely, but providing for their well-being while they are on the bus. Teaching them about the limitations faced by children with special needs will help ensure the safety of these students.”
“While these students are on that bus, they are the responsibility of these drivers and aides,” said Jasey. “These students are especially vulnerable. It makes all the sense in the world to educate these employees to know and be able to recognize behaviors associated with certain disabilities, so they can respond appropriately. It is in their best interest and the best interest of these students.”
The bill was approved 78-0 and has been referred to the Senate Education Committee for further consideration.