Impact on School District Policies from the 2023 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly
Impact on School District Policies from the 2023 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly

Last week Pullman & Comley released its annual comprehensive summary of legislation affecting Connecticut schools, which can be read here. Included below is our initial take on the key policy and procedural impacts as a result of this year’s legislation.

Age of Kindergarten Entry

Public Act 23-159 and Public Act 23-208 effectively raise the age at which children may start kindergarten by providing that (effective with the 2024-2025 school year), a child must be at least five years of age on or before the first day of September of any school year in order to be eligible to enroll in the public schools. Children under the age of five may be admitted into school early upon parental written request to the school principal. Policy Impact: Schools will need to amend their school attendance policies for the 2024-2025 school year to account for this change.

School Climate and Bullying

Public Act 23-167 makes numerous and significant changes and additions to the Connecticut General Statutes dealing with safe school climate and bullying. Due to its importance, a separate post/alert will be forth coming from this firm on this new Act. Policy Impact: For the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years, boards of education may adopt the new, to-be-developed, model Connecticut school climate policy, in lieu of following the mandates of the current bullying law. Boards of education that do not adopt the policy in either 2023-24 or 2024-25 must continue to comply with current law. However, beginning with the 2025-26 school year, all school districts must adhere to the new statutory criteria and definitions and adopt a new school climate policy.

Teacher Evaluation, Certification, Professional Development and Retention

Teacher Evaluations

Public Act 23-159 makes a number of changes to teacher evaluation requirements. Commencing with the 2024-25 school year, boards of education shall be required to adopt and implement new teacher evaluation and support programs consistent with new program guidelines to be developed by the Connecticut State Board of Education (“CSBE”). Effective July 1, 2023, the Act also 1) amends the law with respect to teachers who are not evaluated during a school year to provide that such teachers be designated as “not evaluated” for the year rather than “not rated”, and 2) eliminates the requirement that superintendents report on aggregate evaluation ratings as part of their annual reporting obligations to their employing boards of education. Finally, effective July 1, 2023, the Act amends existing law to require boards of education to conduct training programs for all evaluators and orientation for all teachers on local teacher evaluation and support programs on an annual rather than biennial basis. Policy Impact: While the issue of teacher evaluations is not something usually committed to board policy, any inconsistent provisions in any current policies that you may have should be removed. In addition, personnel policies governing in-service, training and onboarding may need to be revised. 

Teacher Exit-Surveys

By January 1, 2024 Public Act 23-159 requires boards of education to develop an exit survey to be completed by each teacher who voluntarily ceases employment with such board, with the results of the surveys along with teacher attrition rates to then be annually reported in the board’s strategic school profile reports. Policy Impact: While not mandated, boards may wish to revise any personnel policies to incorporate references to the new teacher exit survey requirement.

Increasing Educator Diversity Plan

Public Act 23-176 requires school districts by March 15, 2024 to submit an “increasing educator diversity plan” to the Commissioner of Education for review and approval. Commencing with the 2024-2025 school year, and for each year thereafter, boards of education must implement the plan approved by the Commissioner and make such plan available on the board’s website. Policy Impact: In addition to the obvious need to develop anincreasing educator diversity plan,” school districts 1) will have to post the plan online and 2) may have to revise their non-discrimination policies.

Special Education

Public Act 23-137 contains various provisions addressing 1) transition services and procedural safeguards to be provided by school districts, and 2) changes in general to Connecticut special education laws and procedures. Due to its importance, a separate post/alert will be forth coming from this firm on this new Act. Policy Impact: Any special education policies and procedures (and postings) will need to be updated to incorporate the numerous revisions mandated by the new law. Specifically, policies and postings should reflect the new requirements to share information with parents and students with respect to 1) school district and state agency transition services and resources, 2) mediation services, 3) information regarding various decision-making alternatives for students when they reach age 18, and 4) various student and parent rights. As the law will now require boards of education to provide special education until an eligible student graduates high school or until the end of the school year when the student reaches age 22 (instead of only until the date of the student’s 22nd birthdate), schools may have to revise both attendance and special education policies.

Multilingual Education

Effective July 1, 2023 Public Act 23-150 sets forth protections that must be provided to multilingual students and their parents and requires the CSBE to draft a written bill of rights for the parents/guardians of multilingual learners. The new multilingual learner bill of rights must encapsulate numerous specified legal protections, the vast majority of which already exist under law; in addition, school districts must provide translation services (in person or web based) upon request of the parents/guardians or the multilingual learner students themselves during certain meetings with teachers and administrators (and board meetings). Policy Impact: Boards must be prepared to offer such translation services upon request, and should possibly consider revising board bylaws to ensure compliance at meetings.

Title IX

Public Act 23-66 requires the Commission on Women, Children, Seniors, Equity and Opportunity to convene and lead a working group to develop a Title IX “compliance toolkit” for use by boards of education, students, and parents and guardians of students in implementing state and federal laws regarding the prevention, identification and response to discrimination, harassment, and adult sexual misconduct. The toolkit is to include training and a model antidiscrimination and abuse prevention policy and accompanying procedures that include but are not limited to policies addressing the needs of students with disabilities or who are LBGTQ+. Policy Impact: The Act provides that commencing with the 2025-2026 school year, each school district shall implement the afore-referenced Title IX compliance toolkit (and policy) as per their efforts to prevent, identify and respond to reports of child sexual abuse, harassment and discrimination.

Curriculum and Instruction

Remote Learning and Dual Instruction

Public Act 23-150 amends recent legislation that authorized district use of remote learning in limited circumstances but that prohibited the provision of dual instruction (i.e. “synchronous instruction”) in connection with remote learning by specifically authorizing dual instruction in cases where dual instruction is required in, or necessary to implement IEP or Section 504 plans or as part of an intradistrict/interdistrict cooperative learning program in which students are present in a classroom on school grounds during the regular school day and a certified staff member is present in each classroom in which dual instruction is provided or students are receiving such dual instruction. Policy Impact: While not required, some districts do have in place policies governing remote learning (which must be in accordance with state standards), and such policies will have to updated. Before offering dual instruction as part of cooperative learning programs, boards of education must reach an agreement with each impacted certified staff union (i.e., the teachers’ union from each district participating in the cooperative program).

Play-Based Learning

Public Act 23-101 and Public Act 23-159 both mandate that by July 1, 2024, boards of education must provide for “play-based learning” during the instructional time of each regular school day for all pre-K and kindergarten students and must also permit teachers to utilize play-based learning during the instructional time of a regular school day for all students in grades one to five. School employees may only prevent or restrict a student’s participation in play-based learning in accordance with board of education policy regarding the limitation of student participation in physical exercise during the school day. Finally, starting with the 2024-2025 school year, play-based learning must be incorporated into annual professional development programming for pre-K through fifth grade teachers. Policy Impact: Any policies governing restrictions on student rights (including participation in physical exercise) for disciplinary purposes will have to conform with the new laws governing play-based learning.  

Implementation of a Comprehensive Reading Curriculum

Public Act 23-167 requires that commencing with the 2023-2024 school year and each school year thereafter, boards of education must implement a reading curriculum model or programs for kindergarten to grades three that has been reviewed and recommended by the Center for Literacy Research and Reading Success. School districts may apply for a waiver of this requirement, so as to delay full implementation of the model.  

“Reading” for Purposes of a Board of Education’s Required Program of Instruction

Public Act 23-160 amends the law with respect to the required program of instruction to define “reading” as “evidence-based instruction that focuses on competency in oral language, phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, rapid automatic name or letter name fluency and reading comprehension.”

Cursive and World Languages to Model Curriculum

By January 1, 2024, the CSDE is required to develop a model curriculum for grades kindergarten through grade 8 that may be used in whole or in part by any school district. Public Act 23-167 also adds cursive writing and world languages beginning in kindergarten to the content of the model curriculum.

Availability of Curriculum Materials

Public Act 23-160 requires boards of education to make available all curriculum approved by their school district curriculum committees and all associated curriculum materials in accordance with the requirements of the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (“PPRA”). Policy Impact: Curriculum related policies (and even PPRA policies) should be reviewed to ensure compliance with the above provisions.

Graduation Requirements/Course Requirements

Sections 319 and 320 of the “Budget Implementer” amends the state’s high school graduation requirements, beginning with the class of 2025, so that a student cannot graduate unless the student has (1) completed a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (“FAFSA”), (2) completed and submitted a public institution of higher education application for institutional financial aid for students without legal immigration status, or (3) completed a waiver on a form to be developed by the Commissioner of Education. Effective July 1, 2025, Public Act 23-150 adds “civics and media literacy” to the program of instruction that must be offered by Connecticut’s public schools. Commencing with the class of 2027, Public Act 23-21 amends high school graduation requirements by requiring students to satisfactorily complete at least one-half credit in personal financial management and financial literacy; this new one-half credit requirement may be applied to the existing nine credit requirement for coursework in the humanities, civics and the arts. Public Act 23-21 also amends existing law by (effective with the class of 2023) granting boards of education flexibility in electing whether students shall be required to complete a one credit mastery-based diploma assessment in order to graduate from high school or be granted a diploma.  Policy Impact: Graduation policies will have to updated to reflect these above changes.

Staff Training and Development

Mandatory Paraeducator Training

Public Act 23-160 amends the in-service training law by mandating that paraeducators be allowed to participate in in-service training programs (if they so choose) along with certified staff members, starting with the 2023-24 school year.

Paraeducator Participation in Local Professional Development and Evaluation Committees

Effective July 1, 2023, Public Act 23-159 amends existing law with respect to the composition of local professional development and evaluation committees to require that at least one paraeducator selected by the paraeducators exclusive bargaining unit be added to such committees.

School Administrator Management Training

Effective July 1, 2023, Public Act 23-159 amends existing law with respect to annual certified staff professional development programming to require that principals and vice-principals receive training on the management of school personnel and methods for engaging school personnel with the goals of the school.

Student Seizure Response Training

Public Act 23-160 adds emergency responses to students who experience a seizure in school, including the recognition of the signs and symptoms of seizures, the appropriate steps for first aid, information about seizure actions plans for students and, for those authorized to do so, the administration of medication to the list of mandatory in-service training programs for certified staff members.

School Nurses

Public Act 23-167 requires that all boards of education must provide professional development programs related to training and instruction in the implementation of IEPs and Section 504 Plans not later than thirty days after a nurse or nurse practitioner has been appointed by or entered into a contract with such board of education.

Mandatory CSDE Training for New Board Members

Public Act 23-167 requires newly-elected board of education members to complete a mandatory training program to be developed by the CSDE within one year of taking office. Policy Impact: Any in-service policies may have to be updated to ensure compliance, and board bylaws may have to be amended to account for the training for board members.

School Resource Officers

Public Act 23-167 and Public Act 23-208 make a number of changes regarding school district utilization of school resource officers (“SROs”). Pursuant to Public Act 23-167, effective July 1, 2023, school districts that assign a SRO to any school must maintain a copy of the memorandum of understanding (“MOU”) with the local law enforcement agency regarding the SRO’s role in a central location in the district, post it on the district’s website and at each school in which the SRO is assigned. Each MOU shall include provisions specifying the SRO’s duties concerning, and procedures for, the restraint of students, use of firearms, school-based arrests and reporting of any investigations and behavioral interventions. In addition, Public Act 23-208 clarifies that all MOUs between boards of education and local law enforcement agencies regarding the assignment of SROs that are entered into, extended, updated or amended on or after July 1, 2023 include provisions specifying a SRO’s duties concerning, and procedures for investigations and behavioral interventions of challenging behavior or conflict that escalates to violence or constitutes a crime.  Policy Impact: It goes without saying that SRO MOUs will have to be revised when they are developed or extended in order to conform with these laws.

Indoor Air Quality

Public Act 23-167 requires the Department of Administrative Services (“DAS”) to develop 1) a standard school building indoor air quality reporting form to be used by boards of education when preparing or conducting a uniform inspection program of the indoor air quality within each of its school buildings, and 2) a standard school building heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reporting form to be used by boards of education when conducting a uniform inspection and evaluation of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in school buildings. Both forms are to be made available on the DAS website.

Beginning on January 1, 2024, boards of education must annually provide for a uniform inspection and evaluation program of the indoor quality within each of its school buildings, using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Indoor Air Quality Tools for Schools Program, with such evaluations to be placed on the district websites along with the website of each school (and be submitted to DAS).

The Act delays by one year (until January 1, 2025) the requirement that boards of education provide for a uniform inspection of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system within each school building under its jurisdiction (with further inspection every five years thereafter). Reports of such inspections must be provided to DAS (via the DAS forms) as well as posted on the district’s website. DAS may, upon a board’s request, grant a waiver of the above January 1, 2025 deadline for the provision of a uniform inspection and evaluation under certain limited circumstances. Policy Impact: In addition to the obvious reporting requirements (and expenses for these inspections), school districts may need to review their facilities policy to ensure conformity with this new law.

Student Suspensions and Expulsions

Public Act 23-167 requires that commencing with the 2024-2025 school year, any board of education with a rate of in or out of school suspensions and/or expulsions that is deemed high or disproportionate by the Commissioner of Education shall (1) develop strategies to reduce the number of suspensions and expulsions; and (2) submit such strategies to the Commissioner. Policy Impact: Subject to further state guidance, it is possible that school district suspension/expulsion policies may have to reviewed, to the extent such policies are responsible for excessively “high” rates of discipline.

Board Meeting and Agenda Requirements

Effective July 1, 2023, Public Act 23-160 makes it an express requirement that boards of education conducting regular or special meetings make available for public inspection the agenda for the meeting and any associated documents that may be reviewed by members of the board at the meeting and post such agenda and documents on the board’s website. Policy Impact: Board bylaws may need to be reviewed and revised to ensure conformity with this new mandate.

Public Libraries

Among a number of other provisions, Public Act 23-101 also provides that in order for a principal public library to be eligible for state grants, it must maintain and adhere to collection development, collection management and collection reconsideration policies that have been approved by the governing body of such library; such policy shall offer residents a clear process to request a reconsideration of library materials (and shall govern if there is a book challenge). Policy Impact: While this law covers public libraries (as opposed to school libraries), this is a good reminder to make sure that your policies governing textbooks and school media materials are in place and are adequate to address inevitable book challenges.


As always, please feel free to reach out to any of our school law attorneys if you have questions regarding a particular piece of legislation or if you need any assistance in policy development.

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