TRENTON – Assemblywoman Michele Matsikoudis’ testimony before theAssembly Education Committee on Thursday spoke to the critical importance of teaching students about grief, an experience that became more common for children during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Improving access to these critical life skills for students in grades 8 through 12 helps support children across the board. Not only does this bill provide students with supportive tools and coping mechanisms for themselves, it also empowers everyone else in the class to learn how they can support a grieving best friend or lend a helping hand to their classmate in need,” Asw. Matsikoudis (R-Union) said during committee testimony. “Most importantly, these lessons send a clear message to students experiencing loss: that they are not alone.”
The Union County lawmaker is a cosponsor of a bill (A5015) requiring school districts to provide instruction on grief to students in grades 8 to 12 beginning next academic year.
During the pandemic, one child out of every 500 lost a caregiver to Covid, according to the National Institutes of Health. This made orphanhood a secondary tragedy. Children of racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 65 percent of these deaths. The Childhood BereavementEstimationModelprojects that one out of every 13 children in New Jersey will experience the death of a parent or sibling before age 18.
The Senate companion bill (S3330), sponsored by Senator Jon Bramncik (R-21) passed the Senate unanimously in May.
“Mental health has become a crisis in our nation,” said Sen. Bramnick. “This legislation may be helpful when explaining the effects of loss to high school students.”
The New Jersey Assembly is scheduled to vote on the bipartisan legislation on December 21. Once approved, the bill would head to Governor Murphy’s desk for signature.
SenatorBramnickworkedwithImagine, a Center for Coping with Loss to craft the legislation which would instruct school districts to teach students how to cope with grief and loss.
The bill, S-3330/A-5015, would require: Public school districts to teach lessons on grief for students in grades eight through twelve as part of the New Jersey Student Learning Standards in Comprehensive Health and Physical Education.The Commissioner of Education to provide age-appropriate resources to public school districts on mechanismsandtechniquestousewhile dealing with symptoms of grief.Public school districts to provide in-school support, mental health crisis support, and individual and group therapy for students.