Developments from the 2022 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly Affecting Public Schools (and Public Employers)
The 2022 Regular Session of the Connecticut General Assembly concluded on May 4, 2022. The following is a brief description of acts that were passed by the General Assembly that may be of interest to Connecticut’s K-12 schools. In addition to the legislation that directly relates to schools and school districts, this summary provides an overview of labor and employment legislation affecting public-sector employers as well as a discussion of the changes to the Connecticut Freedom of Information Act related to remote and “hybrid” meetings.
LEGISLATION AFFECTING EDUCATION AND EDUCATIONAL ENTITIES
STUDENT MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES (AND MORE)
Public Act 22-80: An Act Concerning Childhood Mental And Physical Health Services In Schools. This omnibus Act addresses various issues affecting mental health services in the schools, and a wide variety of not necessarily connected matters.
Human Services Permit: The Act authorizes the State Board of Education upon the request of a school district or RESC to issue a “human services permit” to applicants with specialized training, experience or expertise in social work, human services, psychology or sociology. The Act sets forth minimum education/experience requirements for this permit, which would authorize holders to be employed and provide mental health and human services to students within their scope of practice/area of expertise or specialty.
SDE-Administered Mental Health Services Grant Program: The Act requires the Connecticut State Department of Education (“SDE”) to administer a program to provide grants to school districts for hiring and retaining additional school social workers, psychologists, counselors and nurses (and as per Public Act 22-116, licensed marriage and family therapists). The Act requires SDE to develop and distribute a survey that school districts must annually complete on the number of school social workers, psychologists, counselors, and nurses (and as per Public Act 22-116, licensed marriage and family therapists) they employ; the Commissioner of Education will then calculate the student-to-worker ratio for each of these positions and report the survey results to the General Assembly’s Education and Children’s Committees.
Administration of NARCAN: The Act amends the state’s school medication administration laws to allow school nurses (or during their absence/unavailability, qualified/trained school employees) to administer opioid antagonists (i.e., NARCAN) to provide emergency first aid to students experiencing opioid-related drug overdose and who do not have prior written authorization from a parent or prior written order of a qualified medical professional. During regular school hours, there must be at least one such qualified/trained school employee on school grounds (at each school in the absence of a school nurse). A parent/guardian may submit a request in writing to the school nurse and medical advisor that an opioid antagonist not be administered to their child. The Act also requires the Department of Consumer Protection (in collaboration with SDE) to provide information to school districts on where they can acquire opioid antagonists. The Act authorizes prescribers or pharmacists certified to prescribe an opioid antagonist to enter into an agreement with school districts on the distribution and administration of such antagonists.
IMPACT: Administration of medication policies should be reviewed and amended as necessary to comply with this provision. School principals and administrators should work to ensure that at least one qualified and trained employee is available to administer opioid antagonists during regular school hours in the absence of a school nurse.
Remote Learning and Synchronous/Dual Instruction: For the 2022-23 school year, school districts have the option of providing remote learning for grades 9 through 12. Effective with the 2024-25 school year, this Act permits school districts to authorize remote learning for grades kindergarten through 12. Remote learning must be in accordance with SDE standards. The Act explicitly prohibits dual/synchronous instruction (i.e., the simultaneous instruction by a teacher to students in-person in the classroom and students engaged in remote learning).
IMPACT: The prohibition on synchronous instruction is a significant educational policy development that effectively requires school districts to employ more certified staff in order to implement remote instruction on a wide-scale basis.
Duty-Free Lunch: The Act was amended at the last minute to change existing law with respect to duty-free lunch periods for certified employees by mandating that such lunch periods be 1) uninterrupted, and 2) that the length of such periods be the greater of thirty (30) minutes or the amount of time prescribed in the appropriate collective bargaining agreement.
IMPACT: This provision, which again was the result of a last-minute amendment that was not considered by the Education Committee, is likely the most impactful development on public schools as a result of the 2022 session of the General Assembly. Districts have effectively been forced to significantly restructure school schedules – often at considerable expense – to accommodate this unfunded mandate. Scheduling and related changes required to implement this change may require impact bargaining with teachers and administrators.
Career and Technical Pathways Instructor Permit: The Act authorizes the State Board of Education (upon request of a school district or RESC) to issue a “career and technical pathways instructor permit” to any applicant with specialized training, experience or expertise in the field of manufacturing, allied health, computer technology, engineering or any of the construction trades. Such permit will authorize a person to hold a part-time position of not more than twenty (20) classroom instructional hours per week as a teacher of a class in such person's area of specialized training, experience or expertise. The Act sets forth the qualifications and evaluation provision for a permit holder. Furthermore, the Act provides that no person holding such a permit shall fill a position that will result in the displacement of any person holding a teaching certificate who is already employed at such school.
Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies: Effective July 1, 2025, this Act requires public schools to include Asian American and Pacific Islander studies as part of their social studies curriculum. Such studies shall include, but need not be limited to, a focus on 1) the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the state, the region and the United States, and 2) the contributions of a) Asian American and Pacific Islanders towards advancing civil rights from the 19th century to the present day, b) individual Asian American and Pacific Islanders in government, the arts, humanities and sciences, and c) Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to the economic, cultural, social and political development of the United States. School districts may: 1) utilize the curriculum materials developed by the State Board of Education, and 2) accept donations designated for the development and implementation of this curriculum.
Task Forces: Finally, the Act includes a bevy of task forces and study groups. The Act establishes the state teacher shortage and retention task force, which shall develop a comprehensive report that includes recommendations that address 1) strategies to address attrition rates of teachers leaving the teaching profession, 2) the retention of teachers, 3) teacher shortages across subject matter disciplines, 4) the impact of retention and shortages in financially distressed school districts, and 5) streamlining teacher certification without diminishing standards or the professional value of a teaching certificate, and then submit a report on its findings and recommendations by January 1, 2024 to the General Assembly’s Education and Children’s Committee.
The Act requires the Department of Correction in consultation with the SDE to conduct a study of how Unified School District #1 is funded, how its funding compares to other school districts and education programs, and then submit a report with its findings and recommendations by January 1, 2023 to the Education and Appropriations Committees.
The Act creates a task force to combat ableism, which is “bias, prejudice or discrimination, intentional or unintentional, against people with physical, psychiatric or intellectual disabilities.” Task force shall identify 1) current efforts to educate all students on disability and combat ableism in public school curriculum and classrooms, and 2) opportunities to expand such efforts and integrate them into social-emotional learning, then submit report with findings and recommendations to Education and Children’s Committees.
The Act creates a task force to study the governance structure and internal procedures of CIAC, which is to submit its findings and recommendations to the Education Committee by January 1, 2023.
The Act requires SDE to review the state’s teacher certification statutes and regulations for obsolete provisions and barriers for recruitment, and report to the Education Committee by January 1, 2023.
The Act renames the minority teacher recruitment task force the “Task Force to Diversify the Educator Workforce” and requires it to conduct a study of existing recruitment and retention programs.
Miscellaneous Changes: The Act requires SDE to administer a new minority teacher candidate scholarship program. The Act codifies the A.R. case by requiring provision of special education to qualifying students up to age 22 (instead of 21). The Act includes Guilford as a participant in the “Open Choice” program for the New Haven region.
Public Act 22-81: An Act Expanding Preschool And Mental And Behavioral Services For Children. Among other things, this Act, which became effective in May following its passage, requires school boards to adopt policies governing the withholding of recess as a form of student discipline; such policies cannot include provisions that are unreasonably restrictive or punitive or that allow recess prevention/restriction due to student’s academic performance or failure to complete work.
The Act requires the Governor to proclaim May 26th to be “Get Outside and Play for Children’s Mental Health Day” and the SDE to provide annual notice about the day to school districts (including suggestions or materials for suitable exercises that may be held to observe it.
The Act tasks the University of Connecticut to study and evaluate the impact of social media and cell-phone usage on the mental health and educational experience of students in grades K-12, with findings, reports, and recommendations due to the Children and Public Health Committees by January 1, 2024. The Act provides students with expanded access to mental health resources in their community and schools by requiring each local and regional school board to hire or designate an employee as the district’s family care coordinator by the 2022-23 school year, to work in conjunction with school psychologists, counselors, and social workers.
The Act requires the SDE to develop by July 1, 2023 a mental health plan for student athletes to raise awareness of mental health resources available to student athletes; school districts will then have to implement such plans for the 2023-24 school year. This Act reconvenes a task force to continue to study the 1) comprehensive needs of children in the state and 2) extent to which educators, community members, and local and state agencies are meeting them. Includes study of school start times.
Public Act 22-47: An Act Concerning Children’s Mental Health. This Act includes a variety of provisions designed to address children’s mental health, behavioral health and substance use disorders.
Relaxation of Licensure and Certification Requirements for Mental and Behavioral Health Providers and Social Workers: The Act requires the Commissioner of the Department of Public Health and the Commissioner of the Department of Children and Families (“DCF”) to jointly develop and implement a plan to waive Connecticut licensure requirements for out-of-state mental and behavioral health care providers who have no disciplinary action or unresolved professional complaints pending against them. Additionally, the Act includes several measures designed to facilitate licensing and certification for social workers and mental and behavioral health care providers.
Children's Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Health Plan Implementation Advisory Board: The Act amends and expands the composition of the Children's Mental, Emotional and Behavioral Health Plan Implementation Advisory Board (the “Board”) by including various mental health professionals and executive branch agency representatives on the Board. The Board, which was initially established in 2015, is charged with advising various state agencies, providers of mental, emotional or behavioral health services for children and families and others on a comprehensive plan and state standards concerning mental, emotional and behavioral health services offered for families with children.
DCF Repository of Emergency Mobile Psychiatric Services Best Practices: By July 1, 2023, the Act requires DCF to establish and maintain a repository for emergency mobile psychiatric services personnel to share best practices and deidentified and disaggregated data on student outcomes relating to emergency mobile psychiatric treatment of children.
SDE-Administered School Mental Health Specialist Grant Program: The Act creates a new SDE-administered grant program for the hiring and retention of school mental health specialists during 2023-24 and 2024-25. A “school mental health specialist” is defined under the Act as any person employed by a board of education to provide mental health services to students and includes, but is not limited to, a (1) school social worker, (2) school psychologist, (3) trauma specialist, (4) behavior technician, (5) board certified behavior analyst, (6) school counselor, (7) licensed professional counselor, and (8) licensed marriage and family therapist.
In conjunction with the grant program, starting in 2023-24 the SDE shall distribute a survey to all boards of education regarding the employment of school mental health specialists. Among other items, the survey will collect information regarding the total number of school mental health specialists employed by each district and at each school within the district as well as estimates regarding the number of students who have received direct services from such specialists. Thereafter, on the basis of the survey results, the SDE shall then calculate student-to-school mental health specialist ratios for each district and each school within each district.
Grant applications to the SDE must include a proposed plan for the expenditure of the grant that includes the number of school mental health specialists to be hired or retained if the grant is awarded, as well as information regarding how the district’s specialists would use such funding. In awarding grants, the SDE is to give priority to school districts with large student-to-school mental health specialist ratios and/or a high volume of student utilization of mental health services.
SDE-Administered Mental Health Services Grant Program: In addition to the school mental health specialist grant program described above, the Act also calls for a new SDE-administered grant program for the delivery of mental health services to students by boards of education and youth camps and other summer program operators. The grant program is to run from fiscal years 2022-23 through 2024-25. The Act includes a similar grant program to be administered by the Office of Higher Education for the delivery of mental health services to students on campus.
Truancy Policy and Procedures: On or before September 1, 2023, boards of education shall be required to adopt and implement a new SDE-developed truancy intervention model that accounts for mental and behavioral health, or a similar plan that includes the same required components. In addition, as of July 1, 2022, boards of education are now required to provide the parents of truant students with information concerning the existence and availability of the 2-1-1 Infoline program, and other pediatric mental and behavioral health screening services and tools. Lastly, as of July 1, 2023 boards of education must ensure that an appropriate school mental specialist (as that term is defined above) conduct an evaluation of each child who is a truant to determine if additional behavioral health interventions are necessary for the well-being of the child. In connection with these requirements, by September 1, 2023 the SDE and DCF are required to issue guidance to local and regional boards of education on best practices relating to intervention in certain behavioral health situations and when it is appropriate to contact the 2-1-1 Infoline program or use alternative interventions.
IMPACT: Truancy policies and procedures should be reviewed and updated as necessary to comply with the new requirements. Prior to September 1, 2023, boards of education should be prepared to adopt and implement the to-be-developed new SDE truancy intervention model or a comparable model.
RESC-Based Regional Trauma Coordinators: For fiscal years 2022-23 and 2023-24, the Act requires each regional educational service center to hire a regional trauma coordinator who shall be responsible for developing and implementing a trauma-informed care program, providing technical assistance to boards of education in implementing such a program and training school-based mental health specialists to be trainers of such program. By January 1, 2025, each regional trauma coordinator shall submit a report on the implementation of the trauma-informed program to the Education Committee of the General Assembly.
Teacher Requests for Crisis Intervention Team Meetings: Starting in the 2022-23 school year, the Act empowers classroom teachers to request a behavior intervention meeting with the crisis intervention team for the school for any student who – in the teacher’s judgment – has engaged in behavior that caused a serious disruption to the instruction of other students, or caused self-harm or physical harm to such teacher or another student or staff member in such teacher's classroom. The crisis intervention team must then convene a behavior intervention meeting regarding such student. The intervention team members must identify resources and supports to address the student's social, emotional and instructional needs.
IMPACT: Existing crisis intervention team members should be advised of this change in the law and prepare accordingly.
Strategic School Profiles: Effective this school year, the Act updates the requirements for strategic school profile reports to include information on measures of student needs including a needs assessment that identifies resources necessary to address student trauma impacting students and staff in each school and adequately respond to students with mental, emotional or behavioral health needs.
Suicide Prevention: The Act will require boards of education to include in the student identification card distributed to each student in grades 6 through 12 the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number. This requirement is set to go into effect starting with the 2023-24 school year, unless the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number has been operational in the state for less than a year in which case the requirement will go into effect in the school year following the point at which the Lifeline number has been in effect in Connecticut for at least a year.
IMPACT: Student identification cards must be updated to meet this requirement prior to the 2023-24 school year. It may be advisable to reference the 9-8-8 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number in student handbooks as well.
Peer-to-Peer Mental Health Program By January 1, 2023 the Act requires DCF in collaboration with the SDE to develop a peer-to-peer mental health support program that provides services to aid students in grades 6 to 12, inclusive, in problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution and stress management. The program is to be made available to boards of education along with local health departments, youth service bureaus and other entities. After the program is developed, DCF and the SDE are then charged with training designated district employees on implementation of the program. Boards of education may then implement the program in their respective districts commencing with the 2023-24 school year.
Emotional Disability: Effective immediately, the Act requires the SDE and boards of education to use the term “emotional disability” in lieu of the term “emotional disturbance” for purposes of the administration and provision of special education and related services. The Act further specifies that the term “emotional disability” shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”).
Public Act 22-116: An Act Concerning Assorted Revisions and Additions to the Education Statutes. As its title suggests, this Act makes assorted changes to existing education statutes and revises both Public Act 22-47 and Public Act 22-80 (as summarized above) which were enacted previously during the legislative session and created SDE-grant programs for the hiring and retention of school-based student mental health and counseling professionals. It also calls for the development of a report on recovery schools, pushes back the deadline for the Special Education Task Force that was created last year to study issues relating to the provision and funding of special education, and calls for the creation of a new task force to study obsolete professional development and in-service training requirements.
Paraprofessional Attendance at PPTs: With respect to current statutory requirements, effective July 1, 2022, the Act amended existing law to specifically require boards of education to notify paraprofessionals assigned to specific students of an upcoming planning and placement team (“PPT”) meeting regarding such student if the student or his or her parent, guardian or surrogate parent requests that the paraprofessional attend such PPT. If such a request is made, the district must give adequate advance notice of the PPT so that the paraprofessional can prepare for the meeting, and must also, upon request of the paraprofessional, provide training to the paraprofessional on his or her role at the PPT meeting. Following such PPT meeting, the attending paraprofessional, or any other paraprofessional who is providing special education or related services to such student, shall be permitted to review the student’s individualized education plan (“IEP”) or other educational program in order to provide special education or related services to such student in accordance with the IEP or other program.
IMPACT: Pupil personnel services administrators should plan for implementation of this new requirement and consider appropriate training for paraprofessionals regarding the PPT process.
Parent Access to Class Rank Information and Records: Effective July 1, 2022, the Act also amended existing law by specifically entitling parents and guardians to access information and records concerning their child’s class rank from boards of education. Existing law gives both custodial and non-custodial parents the statutory right to access educational, medical or similar records maintained in their child’s cumulative records.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists: The Act also amends Public Act 22-80 (summarized above) by requiring that licensed marriage and family therapists employed or providing services to boards of education be included in the SDE’s survey of the employment of school social workers, school psychologists, school counselors and school nurses by boards of education. As explained above, the results of such survey shall be used by the SDE for the purpose of administering a new grant program for hiring and retaining of school social workers, school psychologists, school counselors, school nurses, and, pursuant to this Act, licensed marriage and family therapists.
School Counselors and FAFSA Completion: The Act also amends the newly-created SDE grant program for the hiring of additional school mental health specialists (summarized above as part of Public Act 22-47) by providing that boards of education that receive such a SDE grant for the hiring of a school counselor must utilize such counselor to provide one-to-one consulting to all juniors and seniors on the completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (“FAFSA”). Thereafter, if a district that receives such a grant has at least a 5% annual increase in student FAFSA completion rates, the district shall receive an additional grant from the SDE in an amount equal to 10% of the district’s initial mental health specialists’ grant.
Task Forces and Reports: The Act requires the Connecticut Prevention Network to develop a report on the implementation of “recovery schools” designed specifically for students in recovery from substance use disorder in other states and the feasibility of implementing one or more of said schools in our state. Such report is to be submitted to the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, SDE and Education Committee of the General Assembly by no later than January 1, 2024.
The Act extends the deadline for the Special Education Task Force that was created last year to study issues relating to the provision and funding of special education in the state from January 1, 2023 to January 1, 2024.
Additionally, the Act also requires CABE’s executive director or designee to establish a working group comprised of various stakeholders to examine and make recommendations regarding the consolidation or elimination of unnecessary, obsolete or redundant professional development and in-service training requirements. The Act requires the working group to submit a report outlining their findings to General Assembly’s Education Committee by no later than January 1, 2024.
Lastly, the Act modifies a provision of Public Act 22-80 that called for the creation of a task force to study the governance structure and internal procedures of the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference (“CIAC”) by requiring the appointment of coach from a member CIAC school district as well as member of the CIAC to the task force.
Public Act 22-38: An Act Implementing The Recommendations Of The Department Of Education. Among other things, this Act extends the term for public school teaching certification by permitting the Commissioner of Education to reissue both the initial certificate (for someone who holds it but has not taught under it) and the provisional certificate, and extends the validity of the professional certificate from 5 years to 10 years. The Act delays by one year (from January 2023 to January 2024) current statutory deadlines for the SDE and the State Education Resource Center (“SERC”) to develop a model Kindergarten through grade 8 curriculum (and submit a report to the General Assembly’s Education Committee regarding the same). The Act grants the Commissioner of Education the authority to temporarily waive or modify provisions in state laws about eligibility for school feeding programs in response to changes in federal law or United States Department of Agriculture waivers.
Public Act 22-42: An Act Concerning The Department Of Children And Families' Recommendations For Revisions To The Statutes Concerning Children. This Act makes minor changes to existing statutory provisions regarding DCF’s release of records to allow the release of records to the Office of Early Childhood for the purpose of determining the suitability of a person to provide child care services to a child and to receive a child care subsidy for the same; to any child placing agency subject to licensure by DCF for the purpose of determining eligibility for employment by the agency or to adopt or provide foster care; and to the Department of Administrative Services (“DAS”) for the purpose of determining whether an applicant for employment with the state, who would have contact with children in the course of such employment, appears on the child abuse or neglect registry.
Public Act 22-118: An Act Adjusting The State Budget For The Biennium Ending June 30, 2023, Concerning Provisions Related To Revenue, School Construction And Other Items To Implement The State Budget And Authorizing And Adjusting Bonds Of The State. While ostensibly for the purpose of implementing the budget, this Act – commonly referred to as “the Implementer” – addresses a variety of topics including the following notable education law issues.
Professional Development for Paraeducators: The Act establishes a system of professional development for paraeducators. Commencing in 2022-23, each paraeducator must participate in a program of professional development, to be made available by the school district, annually at no cost to its paras, that is at least 18 hours in length, “of which a preponderance is in a small group or individual instructional setting.”
Special Education Funding: This Act requires the SDE to compile and analyze information from school districts on the costs of special education. The SDE must identify districts with expenditures on special education that are 2 ½, 3, 3 ½ and 4 times the district’s net current expenditures per student, along with analysis of cost to reimburse districts at each level of expenditure.
The Act replaces the existing “within available appropriations” threshold for the excess cost grant for special education with a three-tiered threshold system based on the property wealth of a town. Currently, the funding of special education costs for a student above four and half times the per pupil costs of such district is subject to reimbursement within available appropriations (and there is a proportionate reduction for all such grants if the need for such grants exceeds the available appropriations for that year). The Act groups towns based upon wealth (“AENGLC”), and the state will pay on a sliding scale when the grant need exceeds appropriations, with the least prosperous districts receiving 76.25% of their grant and on the other end of the scale, the most prosperous districts receiving 70% of their grant.
Magnet School Tuition and Grant Funding: The Act lowers the enrollment threshold that triggers the cap on East Hartford tuition payments to magnet schools to match the cap on tuition payments of all other Sheff region towns, New Britain, and New London for 2022-23, with the SDE to be responsible for magnet tuition losses from these caps within available appropriations. The Act moves up by one year the sunset of the cap on the state's adult education program grant for school districts and RESCs; there will be no cap in 2022-23. The Act provides increases in the per pupil charter school grants for 2022-23, with state charter schools receiving the ECS foundation grant plus 25.42% (instead of 14.76%) of its charter grant adjustment. The Act renews the alliance school district program for five years and requires the Commissioner to designate 36 (instead of 33) alliance districts. The Act increases the bilingual education grant to $3,832,260 (instead of $1,916,130).
The Act is mostly status quo on ECS grants. The Act creates an additional $2,000 per pupil grant for Hartford area/Sheff region school districts that accept public-school students through the Open Choice program.
Student Access to Menstrual Products: Effective September 1, 2023, this Act will require school districts to provide free menstrual products in a) women’s restrooms, b) all gender restrooms, and c) at least one men’s restroom for restrooms that are accessible to students in grades 3 to 12. To carry out this new provision, districts may accept donations of products and grants from any source, and partner with nonprofit or community-based organizations.
TRB Eligibility: The Act excludes school business administrators who hold a certificate with an administration endorsement from the Teacher Retirement System (“TRS”). The Act limits TRS eligibility for professional employees of SERC to only those hired before July 1, 2022. The Act explicitly includes Connecticut Technical and Career System (“CTECS”) professional employees within the TRS. The Act increases from $220 to $440 per person the monthly health insurance subsidy under the TRS for eligible retired teachers (and their spouses or surviving spouses or disabled dependents) who receive health insurance coverage from the retiree’s last employing board of education.
State Employees: The Act requires each state agency to apply the following terms from the agreement between the state and the State Employee Bargaining Agent Coalition (“SEBAC”) to their nonunion state employees: 1) for 2021-22, a $2,500 lump sum payment and 2.5% base annual salary increase; 2) for 2022-23, 2.5% increase plus step increases, annual increments (or their equivalents), and a $1,000 lump sum payment); and 3) for 2023-24, 2.5% increase plus step increases, annual increments (or their equivalents).
State Partnership Plan: The Act requires health insurance coverage for children, stepchildren, or other dependent children of state or nonstate public employees via the State Partnership Plan to continue until at least the end of the calendar year after the earlier of when they 1) obtained coverage through their own employment or 2) turn age 26.
School Building Projects: The Act authorizes state grant commitments for numerous school building projects. The Act requires towns (or regional school districts) to submit a notice of project completion within three years from the date of the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for a school building project. If a town or regional school district fails to submit such notice of project completion, the DAS Commissioner shall deem such project completed and conduct an audit of such project. The Act eliminates the School Safety Infrastructure Council and generally transfers its duties to the School Building Projects Advisory Council. The Act authorizes the withholding of 5% of a school construction project’s reimbursement grant if the applicant does not meet Minority Business Enterprise set-aside goals. The Act further requires the invitation of bids on construction projects to be through the State Contracting Portal (instead of newspapers), and amends current law so as to provide that construction managers shall not be eligible to submit a bid to perform any work on a school construction project. The Act eliminates the DAS Commissioner’s authority to approve emergency school construction reimbursement grants for administrative and service facility and school safety projects.
In addition, the Act requires DAS to administer a reimbursement grant program beginning 2022-23 for costs associated with projects for the installation, replacement or upgrading of heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems or other improvements to indoor air quality in school buildings. The Act requires school districts to conduct a uniform inspection and evaluation of the HVAC system in each school every five years, requires HVAC inspection reports be made public at board meetings inclusive of corrective actions and further requires that statutorily-mandated air quality inspections take place every three years rather than five years. Additionally, the Act establishes a working group to study and make recommendations related to indoor air quality within schools. The working group must then submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the Governor and the Education, Labor, and Public Health Committees by January 4, 2023.
Miscellaneous: Beginning July 1, 2023, the Act requires the SDE to allow private schools to accept curriculum accreditation from Cognia (a nonprofit accreditation and certification agency).
The Act makes necessary revisions to the statutes in light of CTECS becoming an independent agency and sets forth provisions with respect to the qualification and hiring (by CTECS’ executive director) of CTECS’ Superintendent.
The Act requires the Office of Workforce Strategy to develop a model “student work release” policy by July 1, 2023, which then must be adopted by school districts commencing in the 2024-25 school year.
Finally, the Act requires the SDE to study the funding process for The Gilbert School and report its results and any recommendations to the Education Committee by January 1, 2023.
Public Act 22-25: An Act Concerning The Connecticut Clean Air Act. Relevant to school districts, effective October 1, 2022 this Act amends current law to allow boards of education to enter into contracts with student transportation providers of up to ten years in duration so long as such contract calls for transportation to be provided by at least one “zero-emission” school bus as defined under federal law. Under existing state law, boards of education can only enter into contracts with student transportation providers for up to five years in duration.
In addition, the Act also requires that on and after January 1, 2035, all school buses that provide student transportation on behalf of school districts in Connecticut must be either zero-emission or alternative fuel school buses. An “alternative fuel school bus” is defined as a school bus that reduces emissions and is operated entirely or in part using liquefied natural gas, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, propane or biofuels. Pursuant to the Act, by January 1, 2040, all school buses that provide student transportation on behalf of school districts in Connecticut must be zero emission school buses. For certain school districts that include economically distressed census areas or municipalities – defined under law as “environmental justice communities” – the deadline for conversion to zero emission school buses is accelerated to January 1, 2030.
Lastly, the Act additionally requires that the Commissioner of Energy and Environmental Protection create a grant program to match the funds necessary for municipalities, school districts and school bus operators to submit federal grant applications to maximize federal funding to buy or lease zero-emission school buses and electric vehicle charging or fueling infrastructure. The Act provides that grant applications concerning the purchase or lease of zero-emission school buses that will be operated primarily in an environmental justice community will be given preference.
Public Act 22-50: An Act Concerning Revisions To Certain Economic And Community Development-Related Statutes. On or before July 1, 2023, this Act requires Connecticut’s Chief Workforce Officer, in consultation with the Commissioner of the SDE, executive director CTECS and Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Labor to develop a model student work release policy. Each school district must then adopt such model student work release policy (or a subsequent model policy) commencing with the 2024-2025 school year. (NOTE: Virtually identical requirements with respect to the development and adoption of a model student work release policy were included in the Implementer Act (see summary above)).
Public Act 22-87: An Act Concerning the Identification And Prevention Of And Response To Adult Sexual Misconduct Against Children. This Act establishes various surveys and other assessments that schools will be required to administer to students, makes minor changes to mandated reporter requirements, imposes new obligations with respect to the distribution of mandated reporting policies and sexual abuse and assault resources, imposes new sexual abuse and assault, bystander and interaction with children training requirements and makes several other changes to existing law with respect to sexual misconduct perpetrated against children.
Connecticut School Health Survey: The Act requires that starting in the 2022-2023 school year, and biennially thereafter, the Department of Health (“DPH”) administer the Connecticut School Health Survey to students in grades 9 through 12 as long as the department receives funding from the federal CDC to do so. Although the legislation says the “Department of Health” shall administer the survey, it then directs the DPH to provide guidelines to local and regional boards of education on how to administer the survey to those students randomly selected by the CDC. It also requires that school districts allow parents the opportunity to exclude their children from the survey by denying permission in writing, on a form prescribed by the department. The Act also allows the Connecticut Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, DCF, the SDE and any other agency or public interest group the department deems necessary, to develop additional questions to include on the survey.
The Act specifically directs the Child Advocate, in conjunction with several other departments, to develop and update, as necessary, questions designed to assess the risk of youths becoming victims of sexual assault or misconduct by an adult. These questions are then required to be included as part of the Connecticut School Health Survey.
No later than January 1, 2023, the SDE is required to develop a uniform policy for use by local or regional boards of education concerning timely notification to the parents or guardians of students in grades 9 to 12 about the Connecticut Health Survey not later than twenty-one days prior to the administration of the survey and to develop a form for that notification which includes an explanation of the survey, how a parent/guardian may opt out of the survey being administered to his/her child, and an internet link to the survey that will be administered.
Mandated Reporters and Distribution of Mandated Reporter Policy and Sexual Abuse and Assault Awareness Resources: The Act also makes minor changes to the mandated reporter statute. It makes any staff member of a youth camp who is twenty-one years of age or older a mandated reporter.
With respect to school districts, the Act requires each local or regional board of education to distribute its mandated reporter policy electronically to all school employees on an annual basis.
Starting in the 2022-23 school year, the Act also requires electronic distribution of guidelines regarding identifying and reporting child sexual abuse to (1) all school employees, (2) members of the board of education, and (3) the parents and guardians of students enrolled in the schools under the jurisdiction of the board of education.
Thereafter, starting in the 2023-24 school year, it also requires electronic distribution of information regarding the sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention program identified or developed pursuant to section 17a-101q of the General Statutes to (1) all school employees, (2) members of the board of education, and (3) the parents and guardians of students enrolled in the schools under the jurisdiction of the board of education.
Sexual Abuse and Assault, Bystander and Interaction with Children Training: In addition to the above, on or after July 1, 2023, the Act mandates that each school employee complete (1) training regarding the prevention and identification of, and response to, child sexual abuse and assault, (2) a bystander training program, and (3) an appropriate interaction with children training program. This training must be repeated every three years, at a minimum.
Miscellaneous Changes: The Act adds a definition of “kidnapping” to mean “any act that constitutes a violation of section 53a-92, 53a-92a, 53a-94 or 53a-94a” and “trafficking in persons” to mean “any act that constitutes a violation of section 53a-192a.
Finally, the Act creates an address confidentiality program to provide a substitute mailing address for any person who wishes to keep their residential address confidential due to safety concerns including because of (1) being a victim of family violence, (2) injury or risk of injury to a child, (3) kidnapping, (4) sexual assault, (5) stalking, (6) trafficking in persons, or (7) child abuse or neglect that was substantiated by DCF and was the basis for issuance of a restraining order, civil protection order or termination of parental rights.
IMPACT: This Act requires school districts to adopt a to-be developed SDE-model policy concerning timely notification to parents/guardians of students in grades 9 through 12 about the Connecticut Health Survey not later than twenty-one days prior to its implementation. Such policy must include an explanation of the survey and how parents/guardians may opt their children out of it.
The Act also requires that school districts amend their mandated reporter policies to require electronic distribution to all school employees, board of education members and parent/guardians of students enrolled in the district. It will further require employee training regarding the prevention and identification of, and response to child sexual abuse and assault, bystander training and appropriate interaction with children training every three years.
It also requires policy amendment by the start of the 2023-24 school year to require electronic distribution to school employees, board members and parents/guardians of students enrolled in the district of the sexual abuse and assault awareness and prevention program that must be adopted by the district.
Public Act 22-100: An Act Implementing The Recommendations Of The Office Of Early Childhood. This Act amends the composition of the Early Childhood Cabinet to increase the number of individuals appointed by the Governor by two, one of which must be a licensed family child care home provider and a member of a staffed family child care network identified by the Commissioner of Early Childhood and the other of whom must be a parent recommended by a parent advisory group that has been appointed by the Commissioner of Early Childhood. It also allows for the following members of the Cabinet to be compensated for any time and travel within available appropriations: (1) a parent or guardian of a child who attends or attended a school readiness program and was appointed by the minority leader of the House of Representatives, (2) a parent who has a child attending school in an educational reform district and was appointed by the speaker of the House of Representative, and (3) a parent who was recommended by a parent advisory group and appointed by the Governor.
Public Act 22-114: An Act Concerning Periodic Behavioral Health Assessments, Police Officer Recruitment, School Resource Officers, Reporting Of Violations To The Police Officer Standards And Training Council, Investigations By The Inspector General, Minimum Standards And Practices For The Administration, Management And Operation Of Law Enforcement Units And The Correction Advisory Committee. This Act makes a series of changes to existing statutory provisions regarding police officer behavioral health assessment requirements, guidelines for the recruitment, retention and promotion of minority officers and reporting requirements on the use of unreasonable force by police officers, amongst other issues. Relevant to boards of education and other educational institutions, the Act requires the Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education to select a public institution of higher education to study the role and impact school resource officers (“SROs”) have on students with disabilities. As part of the study, the selected institution must: 1. Determine how many SROs are employed in Connecticut and by each school district; 2. Detail the funding mechanisms each district uses to employ SROs; 3. Develop metrics for assessing the efficacy of SROs particularly in the context of interactions with students with disabilities; 4. Determine the chain of command structure when students with disabilities experience crises in schools; 5. Determine what the process is for entering into memoranda of understanding between school districts, boards of education and SROs and public accessibility to such process; and 6. Explore any other issues the institution deems relevant to such study. The selected institution must report its findings to the General Assembly’s judiciary committee by no later than December 1, 2022.
Public Act 22-125: An Act Concerning The Pipeline For Connecticut's Future Program And the Provision of Information About The Availability of Technical Education And Career Schools And Regional Agricultural Science And Technology Education Centers. This Act requires SDE to administer the Pipeline for Connecticut's Future program in which it will assist school districts in enhancing existing (or establishing new) partnerships with one or more local businesses to offer a pathways program in one or more fields (e.g., manufacturing, computer programming or the culinary arts) that may lead to a diploma and a certificate or license upon graduation. The program will assist students in 1) obtaining occupational licenses, 2) participating in apprenticeship opportunities, and 3) gaining job skills, along with providing industry-specific class time and cooperative work placements, on-site and apprenticeship training, and course credit and occupational licenses to students upon completion. The SDE will develop best practices that schools may use for such partnerships.
This Act requires the Commissioner of Education to review existing state laws and regulations related to the establishment of pathways programs to identify any obstacles or prohibitions that may limit a school district’s ability to build partnerships with local businesses for establishing a successful program. The Commissioner is then to submit recommendations for legislation by January 1, 2023 to the General Assembly’s Education Committee. Furthermore, the Act requires school counselors to provide information to students in middle and high school about technical education and career schools and regional agricultural science and technology education centers. This information must also be published on school district websites.
LEGISLATION AFFECTING PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYERS
NON-DISCRIMINATION/EMPLOYMENT & DOMESTIC VIOLENCE PROTECTIONS
Public Act 22-82: An Act Concerning Online Dating Operators, The Creation Of A Grant Program To Reduce Occurrences Of Online Abuse And The Provision of Domestic Violence Training And Protections For Victims Of Domestic Violence. This Act, which takes effect on October 1. 2022, adds status as a domestic violence victim as a protected class under Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (“CFEPA”) (and prohibits discrimination against such persons). The Act amends CFEPA to prohibit employers from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation (including a reasonable leave of absence) to an employee for the purpose of seeking attention to injuries caused by (or services relating to) domestic violence, unless the absence would cause an undue hardship to the employer. Employers can request certain specified supporting documentation from employees with respect to a request for such a leave of absence; however, employers must maintain the confidentiality of information (to the extent permitted by law) regarding one’s status as a domestic violence victim.
The Act authorizes the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (“CHRO”) to require employers with three or more employees to post in a prominent location information concerning domestic violence and the resources available to victims of domestic violence. The Act requires each state agency (but not private employers) to provide a minimum of one hour of training and education related to domestic violence and the resources available to victims of domestic violence 1) to all employees by July 1, 2023, and 2) to all employees hired on or after January 1, 2023, not later than six months after they start work. The Act sets forth the contents of such training, and these training requirements may be met by using an online training and education video (or other interactive method of training and education) to be developed by CHRO in conjunction with the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence (and made available at no cost to each state agency).
Lastly, of great significance to many small employers throughout Connecticut (and seemingly unrelated to the stated focus of the Act), the Act lowers the threshold for the definition of an “employer” covered under the CFEPA from an employer employing three employees to an employer employing one employee or more. The Act expands the definition of “employee" under CFEPA to include any elected or appointed official of a municipality, board, commission, counsel or other governmental body.
IMPACT: Employers (whether schools or other entities) may have to amend non-discrimination policies to accommodate victims of domestic violence as well as to address the revised definitions of “employee” and “employer.” Resources available to the victims of domestic violence must also be posted.
EMPLOYEE FREE SPEECH AND “CAPTIVE AUDIENCES”
Public Act 22-24: An Act Protecting Employee Freedom Of Speech And Conscience. This Act, which takes effect on July 1, 2022, prohibits employers from requiring employees to attend meetings (or listen to speech or view communications) sponsored by the employer, the primary purpose of which is to communicate the employer's opinion concerning religious or political matters. This Act does NOT prohibit: 1) Employers from communicating to their employees any information that the employer is required by law to communicate or is necessary for employees to perform their job duties; 2) institutions of higher education from meeting or communicating with employees as part of coursework, symposia, or an academic program at the institution; 3) “casual conversations” between employees (or a single employee) and an agent/representative of an employer, provided that participation in the conversations is not required; or 4) a requirement limited to an employer's managerial and supervisory employees. The Act also does not apply to a religious corporation, entity, association, educational institution, or society that is exempt from the requirements of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the CFEPA with respect to speech on religious matters to employees who perform work connected with such entities’ activities.
In addition to these so-called “captive audience” provisions, the Act amends the state statute protecting employees from discipline or discharge due to their exercise of free speech (Connecticut General Statutes §31-51q) by limiting the damages available under it to lost wages/compensation, and thus eliminates any right to punitive damages, although attorney’s fees/costs remain available. However, the Act also broadens Conn. Gen. Stat. §31-51q so as to prohibit employers from even threatening to subject an employee to discipline or discharge due to their exercise of free speech rights.
MUNICIPAL EMPLOYEE RETIREMENT AND REEMPLOYMENT
Public Act 22-39: An Act Concerning Reemployment And The Municipal Employees' Retirement System, Conveyances Of Certain Land Or Interests In Land Of Nonprofit Corporations And State Contractor Prequalification. This Act creates an exception to the prohibition on retired members of the Connecticut Municipal Employees' Retirement System (often known as “CMERS”) from receiving retirement allowances upon reemployment by a municipality for members who do not participate (i.e., receive benefits) in the System during such a period of reemployment. The Act further permits 1) retired uniformed members of a paid fire department and 2) retired regular members of a paid municipal police department to still be able to receive retirement benefits, but not acquire further credit in the System, if such personnel are employed by a local or regional board of education in a public safety capacity after retirement.
Public Act 22-127: An Act Concerning The Filling Of Vacancies And Replacement Of Candidates On Election Ballots. This Act makes changes to the timelines in which a candidate vacancy for an election to public office may be filled if the initially nominated candidate dies or becomes disqualified for office prior to the election.
Connecticut General Statutes Section 9-460 previously stated that if a person was nominated as a candidate for public office, but twenty-four or more days prior to the election died, withdrew or became disqualified, the local party or its nomination committee could make a nomination to fill the vacancy in accordance with proper procedures. This Act changes the threshold date to forty-six days.
Previously, no motion to fill a vacancy was valid unless properly filed with the Secretary of State “at least twenty-one days before the opening of the polls on the day of the election,” absent limited exceptions. This deadline has now been changed to forty-two days.
Finally, if a nominee dies within forty-six days (previously twenty-four days), but prior to twenty-four hours before the opening of the polls on the day of the election for which such nomination has been made, the vacancy may be filled by two o'clock p.m. of the day before the election with the municipal clerk or the Secretary of the State, as the case may be.
Public Act 22-129: An Act Concerning Probate Court Operations. Among other things, this Act expands upon a 2021 law that requires employers (through June 30, 2024) to grant employees, upon request, two hours of unpaid time off from their regularly scheduled workday to vote in regular state elections (and special elections for congresspersons or state legislators) so as to also require such leave for special elections for probate court judges.
LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICERS
Public Act 22-64: An Act Concerning Mental Health Needs Of And Services For Police Officers, Certain Requirements Regarding Police Training And Certain Reports. Among other things, this Act extends the prohibition against discharge, discipline or discrimination against a police officer for seeking mental health services to include services provided as a result of a mandatory behavioral health assessment.
Second, by no later than July 1, 2023, the Act requires the Police Officer Standards and Training Council (“POST”) to, after consultation with persons with mental or physical disabilities and advocates on behalf of such people, develop a training curriculum for police officers regarding interactions with persons who have mental or physical disabilities. It requires the development of a similar training curriculum for police officers regarding interactions with persons who are deaf, hard of hearing or deaf-blind. On or after October 1, 2023, each police basic training or review training program conducted or administered by POST, the Division of State Police or a municipal police department shall include the developed curriculum.
Third, the Act creates a task force to study the mental health needs of law enforcement officers. The task force is tasked with examining the mental health needs of law enforcement officers, listing programs that serve or could be available to serve the mental health needs of officers, identify barriers to accessing those programs and to make recommendations for policies, practices and legislation to address the mental health needs of officers. The task force is required to submit a report not later than January 1, 2023, on its findings to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly.
Finally, the Act provides for several other agencies to make reports to the joint standing committee of the General Assembly. These include that not later than January 1, 2023 the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy at the University of Connecticut, in consultation with the United Way of Connecticut, shall submit a report including a study of a representative sample of 9-1-1 dispatch call data and an analysis of what percentage of those calls could be more appropriately directed to the 2-1-1- Infoline program. Also not later than January 1, 2023, POST shall submit a report (1) providing the implementation status of the interactive electronic computer platform and any criteria used by the council to determine when it is appropriate to allow officers to complete certified review training using the platform, (2) determine whether any other required training after initial certification may be conducted through such an electronic computer platform or other on-line format without compromising the quality of the training, and (3) make recommendations for any legislation necessary to implement the council’s findings. Again, not later than January 1, 2023, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services shall submit a report including an examination of the Community and Law Enforcement for Addiction Recovery project, including an analysis of whether such project has successfully met its goals and recommendations for improvement.
Public Act 22-66: An Act Allowing Police Officers To Wear Religious Head Coverings As Part Of A Police Uniform. This Act provides that not later than October 1, 2022, each law enforcement unit shall adopt or amend a policy to permit a police officer to wear a religious head covering in accordance with the police officer's religious beliefs while the police officer is on duty and wearing a uniform or other authorized attire, except where the use of tight-fitting protective headgear is required by such law enforcement unit.
IMPACT: Police Departments may need to amend their policies to address the right to wear religious head coverings while on duty.
Public Act 22-119: An Act Concerning Accreditation Standards For Law Enforcement Units. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-294ee, POST and the Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection or the commissioner's designee, are required to jointly develop, adopt and revise, as necessary, minimum standards and practices for the administration and management of law enforcement units, as defined in section 7-294a. This Act sets forth procedures and timelines for the Council to establish minimum standards and practices. These minimum standards, as set forth under the Act, must now be divided into three (3) tiers and must be issued no later than January 2023. A certification of compliance shall be issued to each unit that meets such minimum standards.
Tier one shall consist of minimum standards designed to protect law enforcement units from liability, enhance the delivery of services and improve public confidence in law enforcement. Tier two shall consist of minimum standards for the administration, management and operation of law enforcement units. Tier three shall consist of higher minimum standards for the administration, management and operation of law enforcement units.
The Act places deadlines under which law enforcement units must meet these new minimum standards. On and after January 1, 2023 and until December 31, 2023, each unit must be certified, at a minimum, as meeting the requirements for state accreditation tier one as developed by POST or meet a higher level of accreditation standards developed by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (known by the acronym “CALEA”). On and after January 1, 2024 and until December 31, 2025, each unit must be certified at a minimum of meeting the accreditation requirements of tier two or a higher level of accreditation status by the Commission. Finally, on and after January 1, 2026, all units must meet the certification requirements of all three tiers. If a law enforcement unit fails to meet or maintain these minimum certification requirements, “[POST] shall work with the law enforcement unit to obtain and maintain such certification or accreditation standards.”
In addition, Connecticut General Statutes Section 7-294d(g)(1) empowers POST to set forth guidance including, but not limited to, reporting procedures to be followed by law enforcement officers for certificate suspension, cancellation or revocation. Under the Act, a law enforcement unit’s failure to adhere to these guidelines may result in POST revoking the certificate of compliance with the appropriate state-accreditation tier or tiers.
PREVAILING WAGE ENFORCEMENT
Public Act 22-17: An Act Concerning Wage Theft. As of July 1, 2023, this Act authorizes the Connecticut Commissioner of Labor to issue increased fines and citations (i.e., $5,000 per violation) to contractors and subcontractors who violate the state's “prevailing wage” laws. The Act requires the commissioner to maintain a list of contractors/subcontractors that during the three preceding years violated the prevailing wage laws or entered into a settlement with the commissioner to resolve such claims. For each contractor/subcontractor on this list, the commissioner shall record: 1) The nature of the violation; 2) the total amount of wages and fringe benefits making up the violation or agreed upon in any settlement; and 3) the total amount of civil penalties and fines. The commissioner shall review the list each year for the preceding rolling three-year period and may refer for debarment any contractor/subcontractor that committed a violation during this period. The commissioner shall refer for debarment any contractor/subcontractor that entered into one or more settlement agreements where the total of all settlements within the period exceeds $50,000 in back wages or fringe benefits or civil penalties or fines. Any such contractor/subcontractor may request a hearing before the commissioner to contest such a finding.
CANCER RELIEF BENEFITS FOR FIREFIGHTERS
Public Act 22-139: An Act Concerning Adoption Of The Recommendations Of The Task Force To Study Cancer Relief Benefits For Firefighters. Effective July 1, 2024, this Act requires that each town annually contribute $10 per firefighter within each municipality to the State of Connecticut’s existing firefighters’ cancer relief account. Such contribution is to be based on the number of career and volunteer firefighters within each municipality, and only applies to firefighters who have submitted to annual physical examinations subsequent to entry into such service that did not reveal evidence of cancer or propensity for cancer, have not smoked cigarettes within fifteen years and have worked at least five years in a specified fire fighter or related position. In addition, the Act requires the Workers’ Compensation Commission to 1) maintain a record of all firefighters’ workers’ compensation claims made due to a cancer diagnosis, and 2) report annually to the General Assembly regarding this record. Finally, the Act also requires the State Comptroller to conduct a feasibility study on providing pension benefits to firefighters in circumstances where a firefighter’s required pension service years are not met due to early retirement resulting from a qualifying cancer diagnosis. NOTE: A prior version of this bill, that would have created a rebuttable presumption for workers’ compensation benefits for certain cancer diagnoses, did not pass.
OCCUPATIONAL LICENCES AND PRIOR CRIMINAL RECORDS
Public Act 22-88: An Act Concerning Collateral Consequences Of Criminal Convictions On Occupational Licensing. This Act, which takes effect on October 1, 2022, limits the ability of state licensing agencies to revoke, suspend, or deny certain occupational licenses on account of the commission of a felony provided any action is based upon (1) the nature of the conviction and its relationship to the license holder's ability to safely or competently perform the duties or responsibilities associated with such license, (2) information pertaining to the degree of rehabilitation of the license holder, and (3) the time elapsed since the conviction or release. Among the practitioners affected by this revision would be licensed clinical and Master’s-degreed social workers, art therapists, dietitian-nutritionists, architects, public accountants, certain tradespersons, estheticians, eyelash and nail technicians. The Act also extends the prohibition on the Department of Public Health’s summarily taking action with respect to practitioners for conviction of a felony to cover licenses for embalmers and funeral directors.
FOIA AND REMOTE MEETINGS
Public Act 22-3: An Act Concerning Remote Meetings Under The Freedom Of Information Act. This Act, which took effect upon its April 28, 2022 passage, makes permanent changes to Connecticut’s Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) so as to preserve the ability of public agencies (such as school boards) to conduct “remote” and “hybrid” meetings. The Act largely mirrors the temporary provisions which were set to expire on April 30, 2022.
The Continued Remote/Hybrid Meetings Option: A board can continue to hold (if it so chooses) meetings that are accessible to the public through 1) electronic equipment only (i.e., remote meetings) or 2) remote participation in conjunction with an in-person meeting (i.e., hybrid meetings). For these meetings, boards must use technology that “facilitates real-time public access to meetings,” such as “telephonic, video or other conferencing platforms.” While most boards have provided “Zoom” style video access to their remote meetings, an audio-only option is permissible.
Regular Meeting Notice/Posting Requirements: If a board intends to conduct a remote or hybrid regular meeting, it must provide at least 48 hours 1) advance written or electronic notification to each board member, and 2) notice to the public that is posted in its office, the applicable town clerk’s office, and on its website. Boards still must post agendas for these meetings at least 24 hours in advance; the notice/agenda must include instructions for the public on accessing the meeting.
Special Meetings: A notice of a special meeting must be posted 24 hours in advance and indicate whether it will be conducted solely or in part via electronic equipment (with instructions for accessing the meeting).
Public Access For Remote Regular Meetings: If a board conducts a meeting (other than an executive session or special meeting) solely by means of electronic equipment, it must 1) provide any member of the public (upon a written request at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting) with a physical location and electronic equipment necessary to attend the meeting in real-time, 2) record or transcribe the meeting (excluding portions held in executive session), with any transcription/recording to be posted on its website and made available to the public in the board’s office (along with the meeting minutes) no later than seven days after the meeting and for at least 45 days thereafter; and 3) if a quorum of board members attends a meeting via electronic equipment from the same physical location, permit the public to attend the meeting in that location. NOTE: Boards are not required to provide such access/equipment for in-person or hybrid meetings, since the public can access such meetings by merely showing up.
Public Comments: Members of the public attending remotely must be provided with the same opportunity to provide comment and participate in the meeting that they would be accorded if it was in-person. Conversely, boards are NOT required to offer persons attending a meeting remotely the opportunity for comment if they are not required by law for persons attending in-person. As a reminder, nothing in the FOIA requires a board to have public comments.
Board Member Remote Participation: Preserving an absolute right that emerged during the pandemic, board members must be provided the opportunity to participate in meetings remotely (even at an otherwise in-person meeting). However, boards are not required to adjourn or postpone a meeting if a member loses the ability to participate because of issues with that member's electronic connection, unless the member's participation is necessary for a quorum. Unless unanimous, votes taken at a meeting at which any board member participates remotely shall be taken by rollcall. Meeting minutes must identify which members attended in-person or remotely.
Self-Identification: Any board member or member of the public participating in a meeting conducted via electronic equipment “shall make a good faith effort” to state one’s name and title (if applicable) at the outset of each occasion that the person participates orally during an uninterrupted dialogue or series of questions and answers.
Technological Issues: A board is not required to adjourn or postpone a meeting if a member of the public loses the ability to participate because of issues with the person's connection to the meeting. If a meeting conducted via electronic equipment is interrupted by disconnection or an unacceptable degradation of the electronic equipment, or if a board member necessary to form a quorum loses the ability to participate because of such issues with the member's connection, the board may (at least 30 minutes – but not more than two hours – after the interruption) resume the meeting 1) in-person, if a quorum is present in-person, or 2) if a quorum is restored via electronic equipment, solely or in part by such equipment. The board shall (if practicable) post a notification on its website and inform attendees by electronic transmission of the expected time of resumption, or the adjournment or postponement of the meeting, and may announce at the beginning of meetings what preplanned procedures exist in the event of an interruption.
Regional School District Public Budget Hearings: Eliminating an area of ambiguity, the Act specifically permits a regional school board to conduct remotely (or as a hybrid meeting) the public hearing at which it presents its proposed budget.
IMPACT: The law preserves local discretion on whether to conduct meetings in-person or remotely. However, the law provides board members with a right to attend meetings remotely (even for meetings held in-person). In light of the new law, boards may wish to review and update (and eliminate obsolete language from) bylaws governing board meetings.
Public Act 22-128: An Act Establishing Juneteenth Independence Day As A Legal Holiday. Effective October 1, 2022, this Act establishes a new state holiday on June 19th - Juneteenth Independence Day. If this holiday occurs on a school day, school districts can choose to close their schools for such day; if schools are in session on that date, districts shall require each school to hold a suitable nonsectarian educational program in observance of such holiday.
IMPACT: This new law does not require that school districts close school to students and/or recognize Juneteenth as a paid holiday for staff members. A district can either observe the day as a holiday and not have school in session or have school but “hold a suitable nonsectarian educational program in observance of such holiday.” There is no requirement that staff members be granted a “floating holiday” if school is in session.
Please contact any of our School Law attorneys named above should you have any questions regarding the acts that were passed and how they may impact your school and school district.