(TRENTON) – Building on a social emotional learning model developed by the Clayton school district in Gloucester County, legislation to create a five-year pilot program to expand the Clayton model to schools across New Jersey was signed into law Tuesday by Governor Phil Murphy. The measure previously received final legislative approval in March, passing the full Assembly 71-0 and the Senate 35-0.
The Clayton initiative used two strategies aimed to foster students’ socio-emotional development: The first focused on the processing, integration and selective application of social and emotional skills, while the second centered on creating safe and caring learning environments by integrating peer and family activities, improving classroom management and teaching practices and organizing school-wide community-building activities.
The pilot program established under the new law (formerly bill A-4264) will implement those strategies in a maximum of ten public schools from representative counties in northern and central New Jersey, as well as Gloucester County in the south. The program will be provided to students in kindergarten through fifth grades.
The law’s sponsors, Assembly Democrats Adam Taliaferro (D-Gloucester, Salem, Cumberland), Pam Lampitt (D-Camden, Burlington) and Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Bergen) released the following joint statement:
“The Clayton model was built on the idea that a student’s educational environment can influence his or her capacity to learn. By this principle, a supportive, safe, community-focused environment can be a vital tool in a student’s academic and social growth.
“It’s commonly said that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to educate a child, and that’s exactly the kind of holistic, collaborative approach taken by the Clayton model. Parents, peers, caregivers and community members can all play a role in supporting the social and emotional development of children.
“As we plan our recovery from the socially-isolated reality of COVID-19, programs that help our children thrive academically, socially and personally will be all the more important.”