Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation on Friday that will require all New Jersey public schools to include mental health instruction in K through 12 health curriculum.
Senate Bill 2861 aims to enhance student understanding, attitudes and behaviors related to mental health to promote well-being.
“We are striving to do all that we can to improve health and wellness for our students,” said Murphy in a statement, who also took action on Senate Bill 3160, which will require the Department of Education to establish a four-year pilot program testing later school start times for high school students.
“By ensuring that children in grades K through 12 learn about mental health, we can promote a healthier future for New Jersey. Research also shows that academic progress may be negatively impacted by starting school too early. By testing the viability of changing start times, we are exploring ways to improve learning outcomes for New Jersey students,” said Murphy.
Under S2861 the State Board of Education will be required to review and update the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education to ensure that mental health education is incorporated in an age-appropriate way in K through 12 health curriculums.
S3160 will assess how shifting start times would impact districts overall, including how extracurricular activities may be impacted and how transportation to and from school would be affected. Under the legislation, Commissioner of Education Lamont Repollet will select five school districts to participate in the pilot program. Those school districts must include urban, suburban, and rural areas of the state.
“These new laws are a great example of educational equity at work,” said Education Commissioner Lamont Repollet.
“Educating students about mental health prioritizes approaches like social and emotional learning programs that give students the necessary skills to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, and make responsible decisions. It’s an important step toward building positive school climates and supportive learning environments for all of our students. The pilot program on later start times for high school students will also allow the Department of Education to gain important impact on how students and families would be impacted by changes to the school day,” said Repollet.
S2861 was sponsored by Sens. Kristin Corrado, R-40th District; Richard Codey, D-27th District; and Joseph Vitale, D-19th District; and Assembly members Gary Schaer, D-36th District; John McKeon, D-27th District; Joann Downey, D-11th District; Raj Mukherji, D-33rd District; and Daniel Benson, D-14th District.
S3160 was sponsored by Codey and Assembly members Mila Jasey, D-27th District; Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-37th District; and Carol Murphy, D-7th District.