New State Legislation

Nathaniel Pierce, Staff Writer~

Since the convening of the Virginia General Assembly on Jan. 10, 2018, there have been over 260 bills focussed on education brought forward in either the state House or Senate. These are some of the more important bills of the 2018 year thus far.

Senate Bill (SB) 229 is labelled as “School bus personnel; training program on autism spectrum disorders.” This bill requires that anyone employed by the school board to be trained in helping and understanding all of the autism spectrum disorders. This bill is particularly aimed at those who work directly with any student with autism, including bus drivers and aides. SB 229 entered committee in the state Senate on Jan. 25. It passed through Senate with a 39 to 0 vote. It then entered the House and passed with a 96 to 0 vote on March 8. The bill has now moved on to Governor Ralph Northam’s desk waiting to be signed into law.

House Bill (HB) 1111 “STEAM programs; establishes STEAM Education Fund.” is a bill that focuses on getting grants to schools where the students tend to be at a higher need for financial assistance. HB 1111 will allow the school board to award grants up to $50,000 to schools for science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) programs. This will be for schools that have at least 25 percent of students on any free or reduced lunch program. The bill is currently in a committee for appropriations and is awaiting further votes and/or amendments.

Senate Bill (HB) 425 is titled “Family life education; child sexual abuse.” Its focus is to teach students how to recognize child abuse, both physical and sexual. The bill suggests that it be taught in “age-appropriate instruction.” The lessons will be taught in all Family Life courses from grades K through 12 for all public schools in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The bill has been incorporated into SB 101, a bill focussed on preventing digital sexual harassment. The two bills are currently listed as SB 101, or “Family life education; age-appropriate elements of effective programs.” The bill passed Senate with a 37 to 2 vote on Jan. 23, and passed in the House with a 97 to 1 vote on March 7. The bill now awaits Governor Ralph Northam’s approval.

For more information about these bills, or to see other bills currently in the General Assembly, visit http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/legislation/2018/bills.shtml.