By Kim Walter
As the 2013 General Assembly convened Wednesday, Frederick County Public Schools launched a link on its website allowing parents and community members to track house bills involving education.
This is the third consecutive year that such a webpage has been available, said the school system's coordinator of policy, records management and communications, Steve Edwards.
"Each year we've received a lot of positive feedback on the page," Edwards said Wednesday afternoon. "I don't think the average citizen realizes how many bills impacting education are being considered in the General Assembly."
The link, which can be found on the division's home page, directs visitors to almost 50 house bills which could impact the school system. Basic information about the General Assembly and the process of how a bill becomes a law is also provided.
"This is an information-based page," Edwards said. "We don't want people to necessarily have the same stance as our school board on certain pieces of legislation. Rather, we want to make it easy for people to get information on the different bills and make their own, well-informed decision."
Edwards hopes the inclusion of the contact information will also make it easy for community members to share their views with representatives.
The Frederick County school board adopted a stance on various issues during their Dec. 4 meeting, Edwards said. Board members and school officials will be keeping a close watch on several bills as well.
"The board strongly opposes unfunded mandates," Edwards said, adding that was a stance shared with the Virginia School Board Association.
Following the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Edwards said the board is interested in an initiative that could expand the school resource officer program.
"Any funding that would help enhance security in our schools is certainly something we would support," he said.
Several house bills deal with student discipline and the notification of parents following an incident. Edwards said some legislation asks that an investigation of an activity be put on hold until a parent is notified of the student's behavior.
"Administrators are charged with maintaining a safe and secure learning environment for all students, and all are expected to contact parents following an incident," he said. "But delaying any investigation of an activity could result in jeopardizing the safety of other students, so the board is in opposition to that as well."
Throughout this year's General Assembly session, visitors of the website can check the status of any listed bill, and learn more specific details about the legislation.
"My department puts the page together, and it's really quite interesting going through all the introduced bills that deal with education," Edwards said. "There's a lot going on in schools, and it's important that parents realize what could change before the bills are voted on."
To view the webpage, go to www.frederick.k12.va.us and click on General Assembly Bill Tracking.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org