ASSEMBLY, No. 5618

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

220th LEGISLATURE

INTRODUCED JUNE 20, 2023

 


 

Sponsored by:

Assemblywoman† CAROL A. MURPHY

District 7 (Burlington)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

†††† Establishes grant program in DOE for school districts to implement animal therapy programs.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

†††† As introduced.

††


An Act establishing a grant program in the Department of Education for school district animal therapy programs and supplementing chapter 6 of Title 18A of the New Jersey Statutes.

 

†††† Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

†††† 1.† a. The Commissioner of Education shall establish a grant program to provide funding to school districts seeking to offer the services of therapy animals in their wellness centers or student counseling offices. †

†††† b.† A school district that seeks to participate in the program shall submit an application to the commissioner.† The application shall include: how the district plans to use therapy animals to promote student wellness; proof of a school district policy which provides guidelines that protect the health and safety of the students and staff, as well as the therapy animals; and such other information as deemed appropriate by the commissioner.†

†††† c.† The commissioner shall annually select two school districts in each of the southern, central, and northern regions of the State to participate in the program and shall seek a cross section of school districts from urban, suburban, and rural areas of the State. The commissioner shall establish the amount for each grant that is approved, based upon the availability of funds. †

†††† d.† A school district that receives a grant under the program shall permit a teacher employed in the school district to use the teacherís own therapy animal for the program, provided that the teacher has been approved to do so by the principal.† Funding provided to the school district under the grant program may be used to pay any training fees for the teacher and the teacherís therapy animal necessary to meet the school districtís requirements for providing therapy animal services.

†††† e.† The commissioner shall provide school districts with guidance regarding the use of therapy animals in schools including: recommended training requirements for therapy animal handlers; recommended measures to evaluate the health and appropriate behavior of therapy animals; and insurance issues relevant to having therapy animals on school district property.

†††† f.† Each school district that receives a grant under the program shall prepare and submit to the commissioner annually a report on its experience with, and the effects of, the program.† The report shall include, to the greatest extent feasible, quantifiable measures of the impact of therapy animals on student well-being and learning.†

†††† g.† The commissioner shall submit annually a report to the Governor, and to the Legislature pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1991, c.164 (C.52:14-19.1), containing information on the implementation of the grant program.† The report shall include relevant information from the reports submitted to the commissioner by the grant recipients pursuant to subsection e. of this section.

 

†††† 2. This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

†††† This bill requires the Commissioner of Education to establish a grant program to provide funding to school districts that seek to offer the services of therapy animals in their wellness centers or student counseling offices.†

†††† Under the bill, a school district seeking to participate in the program is required to submit an application to the commissioner.† The application is to include: how the district plans to use therapy animals to promote student wellness; proof of a school district policy which provides guidelines that protect the health and safety of the students and staff, as well as the therapy animals; and such other information as deemed appropriate by the commissioner.

†††† The commissioner is to select two school districts in each of the southern, central, and northern regions of the State to participate in the program and is to seek a cross section of school districts from urban, suburban, and rural areas of the State.† The commissioner is required to establish the amount for each grant, based upon the availability of funds.

†††† A school district that receives a grant under the program is required to permit a teacher in the school district to use the teacherís own therapy animal for the program.† The bill also provides that grant funding provided to the district may be used to pay any training fees for the teacher and the teacherís therapy animal necessary to meet the districtís requirements for providing therapy animal services.

†††† The commissioner is to provide districts with guidance regarding the use of therapy animals in schools including: recommended training requirements for therapy animal handlers; recommended measures to evaluate the health and appropriate behavior of therapy animals; and insurance issues relevant to having therapy animals on school district property.

†††† School districts that participate in the program will report annually to the commissioner on their experience with, and the effects of, the program.† Based on these reports, the commissioner will submit annually a report to the Governor and the Legislature on the implementation of the program.†

†††† According to the sponsor, the supportive, non-judgmental companionship provided by animals has been shown to provide a myriad of physiological and psychological benefits for students, including reduced feelings of stress and anxiety.