Decoding the new state laws

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Decoding the new state laws

Olivia Griffin, News Editor

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Texas has 659 new laws that went into effect September 1.  Passed by the Texas Legislature in its 83rd session, here are some of the most relevant laws for students and teachers on campus:

SB 329: Relating to a prohibition on the use of a tanning facility by a minor.

Basically: Texans under the age of 18 may no longer use indoor tanning beds – even with parental consent (previously, 16 and 17 year olds were permitted to use indoor tanning beds with parental consent).

HB 5: Relating to public school accountability, including assessment, and curriculum requirements; providing a criminal penalty.

Basically: The Minimum High School Program, Recommended High School Program, and Distinguished Achievement Program with a new graduation program and course requirements beginning in the 2014-2015 school year.

 

SB 376: Relating to breakfast for certain public school students.

Basically: In order to boost academic accomplishment and promote lasting healthy eating habits, schools with a high percentage of low-income students (80% eligible for free/reduced price meals), must offer breakfast to all students at no cost. Prior to the passing of this bill, there were 8,570 schools in the state offering breakfast, 2,821 of which had 80% of students eligible for the Free & Reduced Price breakfast program, however, 1,052 of which actually offered free breakfasts for students at these schools.

 

HB 347: Relating to prohibiting using a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle on school property.

Basically: Drivers may not use cell phones under any circumstances on public or private school property or within a school crossing zone, unless their vehicle is stopped or they are using a hands-free device such as a BlueTooth or Phone SYNC (available in newer model Fords).

 

HB 1174: Relating to the penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus.

Basically: Don’t ever pass a school bus stopped on the road. This cannot be stressed enough. Fines for illegally passing school buses have increased from $100-$1,000 to $500-$1,250.

 

HB 1718: Relating to the eligibility of certain terminally ill individuals to purchase a resident hunting license.

Basically:  Terminally ill individuals from out-of-state whose final wishes involve hunting are now eligible for an in-state hunting license. The license must be for an individual participating in an event sponsored by a charitable nonprofit organization, and must be approved by the director of the organization.

 

HB 590: Relating to determining a child’s eligibility for a school district’s special education program on the basis of a visual impairment.

Basically: Children with blindness and visual impairments under the age of 21 will receive special education to learn vital skills for safe and independent living such as using a cane to detect obstacles, how to ride a bus independently, and following environmental cues to cross a street and follow a route.

 

HB 642: Relating to continuing education requirements for certain educators.

Basically: Simply put, it’s Learning at Lovejoy for schools across the state. Since some of the primary areas that this program will focus on are educating educationally disadvantaged students and students with limited English proficiency and preventing students from dropping out of school, this applies more toward lower-income type schools than Lovejoy. However, this training will touch on professional leadership development, integrating technology into the classroom, college admissions and financial aid resources, and improving effectiveness in the classroom.

 

HB 697: Relating to a sales tax and use exemption for certain items sold by a school booster club and support organizations; authorizing a sales and use tax exemption

Basically: Spirit wear (shirts, hats, etc) purchase at the school store are now exempt from taxes, as long as the proceeds benefit the school or related program and not an individual. In order to be tax exempt, however, school spirit wear must be sold during school hours or at a school event.

 

HB 742: Relating to a grant program for certain school districts to provide summer instruction primarily for students who are educationally disadvantaged.

Basically: It won’t affect Lovejoy. Only ten schools in the state will be selected for this summer educational programs, and will only be provided to students from preschool to eighth grade. The goal of the program is to close the gap between economically advantaged and disadvantaged students.

 

HB 1018: Relating to the establishment of community partnerships and the development of policy recommendations for increasing physical activity and improving fitness among public school students.

Basically: Schools are now needing to put together specific plans to get their students in shape. In addition to increasing and monitoring physical activity among students, the plan also hopes to reduce violence on campus and get parents more involved on campus.

 

HB 1122: Relating to a pilot program for a three-year old high school diploma plan.

Basically: This law isn’t going to help you get out of high school any sooner. The program would allow students to graduate high school in three years, and include partnerships with public junior and state colleges and any other public postsecondary institution in the state offering technical or academic education. The program’s purpose is to facilitate vocational and technical training for high school students. This school does not qualify, on the basis that this program will only be available to school districts with an enrollment of 150,000 or more or located primarily in a county that has a population of 2.2 million or more: Collin County’s 2011 population was only 812,226. In comparison, Dallas County has a population of 2.416 million, so expect to see this program starting in that area in the near future.

 

HB 1204: Relating to the designation of October 1 as Influenza Awareness Day.

Basically: The state has yet to declare how they will celebrate the holiday. Rumor has it, they are stocking up on pinatas filled with Tamiflu and swine flu masks.

 

HB 1752: Creation of the Texas Teacher Residency Program.

Basically: Participants receive a stipend of $35,000, paid out over the course of 12 months in exchange for a three-year commitment (not including the residency year) to teach in an approved critical shortage area within the partner’s local school district(s). This program is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, and provides soon-to-be teachers with graduate level education. It is a 14-month program that includes a nine-month residency alongside a mentor teacher, 39 hours of master’s level coursework, and mentoring, coaching, and induction support through the graduates’ first two years as fully certified teachers of record.

 

HB 1819: Relating to liability for injuring a trespassing sheep or goat.

Basically: If a sheep or livestock animal comes wandering into your backyard, don’t shoot it. If a person whose fence is insufficient maims, wounds, or kills a head of cattle or a horse, mule, jack, jennet, sheep, or goat, or procures the maiming, wounding, or killing of one of those animals, by any means, including a gun or dog, the person is liable to the owner of the animal for damages.

 

HB 2201: Relating to increasing the courses offered in the career and technology education programs.
Basically: Next school year, six advanced career and technology applications courses, including a personal financial literacy course, will satisfy the fourth math credit required for graduation.

 

HB 2961: Relating to the social security numbers of school district employees.

Basically: A school district may not require an employee or former employee of the district to allow whether to allow public access to the employee or former employee’s social security number. The school district must keep the social security number confidential, and may not use the social security number as an employee identifier other than for tax purposes.

 

For the full list of bills passed by the 83rd Legislature, go to http://www.legis.state.tx.us/Reports/Report.aspx?LegSess=83R&ID=effectivesept1