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Commissioner of Education Upholds Violations of School Ethics Act

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Commissioner of Education Upholds Violations of School Ethics Act

  • Julie Warshaw
  • October 10, 2017

On September 11, 2017, the New Jersey Commissioner of Education (“Commissioner”) affirmed six decisions by the New Jersey School Ethics Commission (“SEC”) that various board of education members violated the School Ethics Act for failing to timely complete school board member training. These board members received penalties ranging from suspensions to reprimands.

N.J.S.A. 18A:12-33 of the School Ethics Act requires, in relevant part, the following for members of a board of education or charter school board of trustees:

(a) Each newly elected or appointed board member shall complete during the first year of the member’s first term a training program…regarding the skills and knowledge necessary to serve as a local school board member. The training program shall include information regarding the school district monitoring system…and the five key components of school district effectiveness on which school districts are evaluated under the monitoring system: instruction and program; personnel; fiscal management; operations; and governance. The board member shall complete a training program on school district governance in each of the subsequent two years of the board member’s first term.

(b) Within one year after each re-election or re-appointment to the board of education, the board member shall complete an advanced training program[.]

(d) Within one year after being newly elected or appointed or being re-elected or re-appointed to the board of education, a board member shall complete a training program on harassment, intimidation, and bullying in schools[.]

In three of these cases, the SEC found that the board members failed to complete the mandatory training required by statute despite receiving notification of noncompliance. The Commissioner upheld the penalty recommended by the SEC, which included a thirty-day suspension and ordering that the board members complete an online training program within thirty days. Further, the Commissioner ordered removal of the individuals as board members if they do not complete the online training program within thirty days.

In the remaining three cases, the board members completed the requisite training after an order to show cause was filed against them but before the SEC issued a final decision. Those board members received a written reprimand as a school official who violated the School Ethics Act.

The individual Commissioner and SEC decisions can be found here.