Bill to Allow New Jersey Public School Students ‘Civic Days’ As Excused Absences Passed Unanimously

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African American student giving a speech at the podium

TRENTON, NJ – Monmouth County Democrat Vin Gopal’s bill to allow students to attend a civic function instead of going to school one day a year has passed in the New Jersey State Senate Unanimously.

The bill sponsored by Senator Vin Gopal and Senator James Beach that would permit public school students in grades six through 12 one excused absence per school year in order to attend a civic event was released from the Senate.

According to Gopal, a close ally of Governor Phil Murphy, school districts across the state would also be permitted to provide additional excused absences for such purposes. Excused absences taken under the legislation would not be reflected on student attendance records.

“Certainly our students learn much through classroom instruction, readings and debates with their peers about the workings of government, and may also be made aware of public issues important to their communities. Yet there are some things that can only be learned through direct participation and lived civic engagement,” said Senator Gopal (D-Monmouth), Chair of the Education Committee. “By encouraging our young people to participate in these civic events and activities, we will be making them better-informed citizens, and will be making our democracy stronger.”

A release by Gopal stated, under the bill, S-2304, a “civic event” would be defined as “event sponsored by a government entity, a community-based organization, or a nonprofit organization that incorporates elements of service learning whereby students learn and develop through organized service. A civic event shall address an issue of public concern such as community health and safety or environmental, economic, or community well-being.”

“If we want to make sure our institutions continue to answer to the needs and concerns of the people they serve, we must do all we can to expose students to the institutions through which we are governed, and to the process of civic engagement. This bill will allow students to step outside the classroom and to see firsthand how their government works,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden/Burlington).

The bill was passed by a vote of 36-0.