Legislative Update

Here are a few of the education bills from the past week or so that have caught my eye:

HB1181 – The is the third school choice bill filed this session. This bill allows open school choice except in cases where a transfer would increase the percentage of free/reduced-price lunch students in the nonresident district to over 65%, or would decrease the percentage of free/reduced-price lunch students to less than 65%  or increase that percentage to over 75% in the resident district. In that situation, the transfer would only be allowed if both school districts agree.

HB1231 – This bill allows existing school employees to contract with the school board to carry a firearm or concealed weapon on campus to provide extra security in addition to his/her current job duties. Of course, this individual would be required to go through additional firearm training. Bills such as this have popped up all over the country in light of the recent Newtown, CT tragedy. This will surely spark much debate.

SB228 –  An addition to an Act passed in 2011, this bill aims to provide increased protection for students with diabetes. In 2011, Act 1204 was passed, which allows voluntary school personnel to be trained by a school nurse to administer Glucagon to  a diabetic student as needed in emergency situations. Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act requires that public school districts receiving federal funds do what it takes to meet the needs of students with diabetes or any other disorder or disability. Because school districts in Arkansas can’t always afford to provide a full-time school nurse at every school in which a diabetic student is enrolled, the parents of these students pushed this bill to allow personnel other than a school nurse to administer the Glucagon, as long as the personnel was trained by a school nurse on how to do so. What seemed to me as an innocent approach to ensure that the needs of diabetic students were met turned into a battle between the parents and advocates of diabetic students and the school nurses, who didn’t think that anyone else could ever have the training necessary to properly administer Glucagon (just another scope of practice fight), and the school personnel, who didn’t want the responsibility of having to learn to administer Glucagon (though the bill only called for volunteers and didn’t require any employee to submit to the training). The bill finally passed, though from what I’ve heard from both parents and school districts, this is still an ongoing fight, as some schools don’t have any employees that have volunteered to submit to the training, and some parents don’t think that the training is sufficient to meet the needs of their child anyway. This new bill extends this logic to the administration of insulin for diabetic students.

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