Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Update From House Education Committee and Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee

House Education Committee

This morning the House Education Committee reported one bill of interest, HB 1096 (Filler-Corn).  This bill requires BOE to amend its guidelines for school division policies and procedures on concussions in student-athletes to include a "Return to Learn Protocol." This protocol would require school personnel to accommodate a gradual return to academics and to be alert to cognitive and academic issues that student-athletes who have experienced a head injury or concussion may experience.

Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee of the House Education Committee

The Elementary and Secondary Subcommittee considered and acted on a larger number of bills today.  The subcommittee recommended HB 484 (Kory) for reporting on a vote of 4-3.  This bill would prohibit the use of electronic cigarettes on school property, school buses, and at school-sponsored activities. 

The subcommittee also recommended HB 751, 752, and 754 (Rust) for reporting.  HB 751 makes it permissive for school boards to expel students for certain drug offenses.  Current law requires school boards to expel students for these offenses but then allows school boards to impose another sanction if warranted by special circumstances.  Under this legislation, a school board may still expel a student for drug offenses, but is not required to do so.  HB 752  removes the possession of a pneumatic weapon on school grounds from the list of weapons offenses that carry a mandatory sanction of expulsion (unless, again, special circumstances exist).  This bill still allows school boards to prohibit the possession of pneumatic weapons and to expel students for violating such a policy, but expulsion would no longer be required in these cases.  VSBA supports both HB 751 and 752 because these bills give local school boards flexibility to decide appropriate disciplinary sanctions and to avoid the confusion of the "mandatory" expulsion that was not actually mandatory.

HB 754 would permit the school board or a committee thereof to change a disciplinary decision made by a Superintendent or designee or hearing officer in certain circumstances.  It is VSBA's position that school boards can already take such actions.  The patron of the bill and the subcommittee indicated that they thought this bill would clarify existing law.

Del. Rust's HB 753 was recommended to be referred to the Courts committee.  That bill would make inadmissible in delinquency proceedings any oral or written student statement made to a school employee if the students parent or guardian was not present during the questioning. 

Del. Wilt's student survey bill, HB 778 was carried over at his request.  That bill would have prohibited school boards from administering surveys or questionnaires requesting sexual, mental health, or medical information; information on student health risk behaviors, controlled substance use, or other information "sensitive in nature" without informed parental consent.

The subcommittee also heard Del. Wilt's HB 786 which would prohibit school boards from dismissing any employee for bringing a firearm on to school property in certain circumstances, such as when unloaded and in a closed container, trunk, or in a gun rack.  Under current law, possession of firearms in these circumstances is not illegal but it can be prohibited by a local school board at the school board's option.  This bill would take away from school boards the ability to chose whether to prohibit or allow firearms onto school property in these circumstances.  HB 786 was recommended to be referred to the Militia and Police Committee.

HB 993 (BaCote) was recommended to be reported and referred to Appropriations.  This bill would require every person seeking initial licensure or renewal of a license to complete study in human trafficking.

HB 1110 (Toscano) was recommended for reporting.  This bill deals with circumstances in which a student is placed in a group home or institution, not solely for school purposes, outside his school division.  The bill would require the school division in which the child previously resided to reimburse the school division in which the child was placed in a group home or institution for the cost of educating the child.

HB 221 (Richard Bell) would require that when a student is placed in a residential facility due to medical necessity, the student be immediately enrolled in an education program comparable to that which was provided in public school in which the student was previously enrolled.  The bill further provides that the residential facility can provide the education program and then the school division of residence must reimburse the residential facility for the cost of providing such education program.  VSBA opposes this bill because it will require school divisions to pay for services over which the school division has no control, no decision-making power, and no oversight.  In most cases, a school division can provide an education program to a student in a residential facility in a much more cost-effective manner than the residential facility. 

HB 1128 (Rasoul) permits two or more school boards to create cooperative CTE programs by written agreement.  School boards can do this under existing law.  This bill would require that such agreements be in writing and also clarifies that a school division that provides CTE under such an agreement may charge tuition to students participating from other school divisions. The bill was recommended for reporting.

HB 1242 (O'Quinn) would require a school board tie breaker to be elected in the same manner as the school board.  Under current law, school boards may choose to appoint a tie breaker.  School boards are not, however, required to have a tie breaker under current law.  Under this bill, the school board would retain the authority to choose whether to create the position of tie breaker but then the method of selection of the tie breaker would be by election.  This bill was recommended for reporting.