University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

News From The Capitol: February 24, 2015

In AR Legislature on February 24, 2015 at 2:07 pm

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The House Committee on Education met this morning and heard bills on the use of virtual meeting attendance by school board members and on student expression of religious beliefs in public schools.

School Board Meetings

Rep. Ron McNair presented HB 1419 that would allow school boards to adopt a meeting attendance policy permitting a member to participate remotely, to count towards a quorum, and to vote. McNair gave an example that a board may need to meet the week school starts to approve a hiring decision but lacks a quorum because members are out of town. Representatives expressed concern that the bill does not specify any limitations on how often a member can participate remotely, making a policy intended for exceptions to enable a new norm. McNair pulled the bill to make changes addressing committee members’ concerns.

Student Religious Expression

Rep. Justin Harris introduced HB 1273 that would create more uniformity in the way schools address issues of religious expression by students. Harris offered instances in which students have been prohibited from communicating their “deeply held religious beliefs” through homework assignments, art projects, jewelry or clothing. Harris said the bill is consistent with federal law and case law on student freedom of expression. After a lengthy discussion of the need for additional policy and the possibilities for unintended consequences, the bill failed.

Upcoming Meetings

The Senate Committee on Education meets on Wednesday and the House education committee meets again on Thursday. House and Senate sessions and committee meetings are streamed live and also recorded for later viewing. Follow the links on the home pages of the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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