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Fuentes, Diegnan & Sumter Bill to Establish Recovery Alternative High School Pilot Program Heads to Gov’s Desk

Schools Would Provide Safe Environment for Students Overcoming Substance Abuse

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Angel Fuentes, Patrick Diegnan and Shavonda Sumter that would authorize the state to establish three pilot recovery alternative high schools in New Jersey received final legislative approval Thursday and now heads to the governor’s desk.

“Recovery alternative high schools can provide a safe and sober environment away from potential poor influences for students struggling with substance abuse,” said Fuentes (D-Camden/Gloucester). “This legislation will help young men and women stay on the right path as they pursue their education.”

The bill (A-3738) would authorize the commissioner of the Department of Education to permit school districts to create one alternative high school in the northern, central and southern regions of the state for students diagnosed with substance use disorder or dependency. The schools would offer a comprehensive four-year education and a structured plan of recovery in an alternative public school setting.

“Oftentimes what draws young people who demonstrate a genuine desire to be sober back into bad habits is being among peers who continue to abuse drugs,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “By creating spaces free of this pressure, this bill will help ensure that students are adequately supported as they transition into a life without substance abuse.”

“For many students, unfortunately, the school corridor – not the street corner – is the primary location for access to drugs that threaten not only their academic futures but their very lives,” said Sumter (D-Bergen/Passaic). “With this legislation, New Jersey will join states across the nation in establishing recovery alternative high schools to provide intervention for young people who need help.”

Under the bill, a school district that refers a student to any of the three recovery alternative high schools would pay the student’s tuition to the school district in which the high school is located. School districts operating a recovery alternative high school would be required to submit an annual analysis of the school’s education outcomes, including graduation and retention rates, course performance and performance on state assessments, to the Department of Education.

The bill was approved 64-7-3 by the Assembly and 32-0 by the Senate in May.