Thursday, January 6, 2011

Grant's Tomb and Stopped School Buses - Highlights from Prefiled Bills

The 2011 session of the General Assembly is right around the corner. Proposed legislation is streaming in and we have identified a number of bills that we will be following this session. Over the next few days, we will highlight just a few of the education related bills that you will be hearing about during this year's session.

Everyone is familiar with the fiasco of the mistake-riddled history texts approved by the State Board of Education and used by a number of our school divisions. It should not come as a surprise, therefore, for you to hear that a bill has been introduced (HB 1550 - Delegate Englin) to, among other things, require publishers to employ content experts to review the textbooks, to list the experts who reviewed the textbooks and to pay for correcting any mistakes that may appear in the textbooks. This bill will afford welcome relief to our school systems that have come to rely on the current State Board approval process to ensure accurate textbooks. Now if we could just get the publishers to figure out when the war of 1812 began and who is buried in Grant's tomb!

You may have also heard about the Fairfax man who recently beat a charge of reckless driving for passing a stopped school bus. Currently, Va. Code § 46.2-859 says "A person is guilty of reckless driving who fails to stop, when approaching from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children." The Fairfax man's attorney pointed out to the judge that when this code section was amended in 1970, the word "at," which originally appeared after the word "stop," was apparently inadvertently dropped from the statute. Thus, the attorney argued, the statute only applies to a person who fails to stop a school bus. The judge agreed with the attorney’s interpretation. Not surprisingly, a bill has been introduced (HB1469 - Dels. Surovell, Bulova, Kory, Sen. Petersen) to insert the word "at" at the appropriate place in the statute and to clarify that the statute applies to "[t]he driver of a motor vehicle." Remember this: while it is not currently unlawful (at least in one judge’s opinion) to pass a stopped school bus in Virginia, we do not recommend that you try it!

Remember to check back often over the next few days as we will be highlighting some of the other bills that we will be following this session.