NEW JERSEY — Governor Phil Murphy signed legislation that will require New Jersey public schools to include mental health instruction from Kindergarten to 12th-grade health curriculums. He also signed legislation that will start a four-year program to test later starting times for high school students.
The bill (S2861) aims to improve students 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,” Murphy said. “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.”
S2861 requires the State Board of Education to update the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education to incorporate mental health education in an age-appropriate way in Kindergarten through 12th-grade health curriculums.
Murphy also signed into law legislation (S3160) that would start a four-year pilot program to test later school starting times for high school students.
The bill will look at how changing times would impact districts overall, including how extracurricular activities may be impacted and how transportation to and from school would be affected. 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.
“Parents across our state applaud Governor Murphy and the legislature for these bills, which will help address the mental health epidemic in our public schools,” said Julie Borst, Executive Director of Save Our Schools. “Mental health instruction from K through 12th grade is critical to building awareness and encouraging treatment. And, as the research unequivocally documents, later school start times for high school students improve mental health, physical safety and learning. This is exactly the kind of bipartisan legislation that benefits all of our children.”