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Va. Senate OKs school zone speed cameras, a limit on suspending younger students

RICHMOND, Va. — More than 17,000 kids in pre-K through third grade are suspended each year in Virginia, but a bill approved by the state Senate aims to change that.

Republican Sen. Bill Stanley’s bill would prohibit suspensions lasting longer than three school days, as well as expulsions, unless the offense involves physical harm, a credible threat of physical harm, or if the local school board or superintendent find there are aggravating circumstances.

In the 2015-2016 school year, 17,300 children in pre-K through third grade were suspended, according to Sen. Jennifer McClellan. In addition to concerns expressed by others, the Democrat is worried about a disproportionate impact on minority students or those who have disabilities.

School zone speed cameras

The Senate also narrowly passed a bill that would allow speed cameras in Virginia school zones for the first time.

Similar cameras are common across Maryland. And they can help keep kids, parents and teachers safe, Republican Sen. Amanda Chase said.

Much like a proposal to introduce speed cameras in work zones — which the Senate had already approved — the cameras would have to be handheld and operated by a police officer.

In addition, warning signs would need to be posted that cameras are in use.

Sen. John Cosgrove, a Republican, argued the cameras could be a cash cow: Unlike the work zone camera bill that limited use to state police, the school zone bill would allow local police to purchase and use the cameras if their local government approves.

The bill passed 22-18.

Recess

The House approved a bill that would allow some recess to be counted as part of the minimum instructional time in elementary school and kindergarten.

Each bill now crosses to the other side of the capitol. Any bills that did not pass by Tuesday evening’s crossover deadline are now dead for the year.

The session ends March 10.


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