On June 16, 2021, Governor Phil Murphy signed into law S3434, which temporarily extends the age of eligibility for special education and related services for students close to age 21, and is effective immediately. The bill was passed by the New Jersey Legislature in response to challenges faced by students with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under current law, school districts are required to provide students with disabilities with a free, appropriate public education in accordance with an individualized education program (“IEP”). Eligibility can potentially occur from age 3 through the school year in which the student turns 21 years old. Under the new law, when an older child’s IEP team determines that the student requires additional or compensatory special education and related services, including transition services, New Jersey school districts must temporarily provide special education and related services to students with disabilities whose age exceeds 21, or will exceed 21, in the 2020-2021, 2021-2022, and 2022-2023 school years. A student receiving services under the new law will not be eligible to receive them beyond the school year in which the student turns 22 years old, unless otherwise stated in the IEP or as ordered by a hearing officer, complaint investigator, or court, unless otherwise stated in the student’s IEP or as ordered by a hearing officer, complaint investigation, or court of competent jurisdiction.
The new law also provides that parents may challenge the nature of the services to be provided using the same dispute resolution tools that they have had prior to the new law’s enactment: (1) mediation; (2) a written request for a complaint investigation submitted to the Director of the Office of Special Education Policy and Dispute Resolution in the Department of Education; or (3) a due process hearing.
Services under the new law will be paid for from the funds received by the State or a school district under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, or any other federal funding intended to address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
A copy of the bill may be found here.
Other COVID-19 information is available in the Riker Danzig COVID-19 Resource Center. If you have any questions about the new law or any related Special Services issues, please contact Teresa Moore or any member of our Special Education Practice Group.