In Pennsylvania, two bills designed to protect students who suffer from food allergies are making headway in the legislature. House Bill 803 would permit schools to obtain a prescription from a physician for an epinephrine auto injector, or epi-pen. Epinephrine is the primary treatment for anaphylaxis, a potentially fatal allergic reaction that can cause throat swelling, a rash and a drop in blood pressure.
The bill has passed in the House and was recently approved by the Senate Education Committee. Prime sponsor Rep. Dick Stevenson told Pittsburgh NPR station WESA 90.5 that he expects the Senate to vote on the bill within a week.
"Currently schools are unclear about what their responsibilities are and what they can and cannot do in this area," said Stevenson.
HB 2049 by Rep. Justin Simmons would provide civil immunity to school bus drivers who administer epi-pens to students who experience an allergic reaction during their daily bus ride. Under the legislation, a school bus driver must first complete a training program developed by the state Department of Health and comply with school district policy to be qualified to use the epi-pen.
The bill does not mandate that school districts or school bus companies enact an epi-pen policy, only that such a policy would allow for civil immunity if the guidelines are met.
"Nurses and trained teachers can administer the epi-pens at school. But what happens if the allergic reaction occurs while the child is on the school bus? My legislation allows the bus driver to help out without the fear of any legal consequences," said Simmons.
He added that although some school districts and school bus companies currently permit their drivers to administer epi-pens to student passengers, drivers may be reluctant to apply the potentially lifesaving treatment because of legal liability issues.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has announced a new initiative with The Bully Project to combat bullying in school districts nationwide. The Conference said the Mayors' Campaign to End Bullying is "a critical initiative to establish policies and programs" to improve the lives of more than 13 million students who report they are bullied each year. The Conference added that the program is in response to "stalled" legislation in Congress.
"As community leaders, it is the responsibility of mayors to raise awareness and educate city residents about not only the potentially tragic effects of bullying, but also the many real ways that school climate impacts how our schools perform and innovate," said Sacramento Mayor and USCM President Kevin Johnson (yes, the former NBA All-Star guard with the Phoenix Suns, pictured at left) in a statement. "Developing and implementing long-term anti-bullying initiatives that engage top level community stakeholders including superintendents, law enforcement and philanthropic leaders is critical for the health and safety of not only our children, but all our residents. We are proud to stand in partnership with The Bully Project on this historic Mayors campaign in order to end bullying once and for all in the nation's cities."
This week jurors in two separate trials had to weigh the liability, or culpability, of drivers involved in two tragic student fatalities — and their punishments stood in stark contrast. In Alberta, Canada, a school bus driver that struck and killed Thomas Wedman, 6, of St. Albert received a $2,000 fine in court Monday.
On the morning of Sept. 27, 2013, Wedman was walking to school with his dad and older brother at around 8:40, when both boys ran ahead. The school bus stopped as the older boy crossed the street at a marked crosswalk, but when Thomas attempted to cross, the driver didn't see him and proceeded to make a right turn.
The lawyer for Joseph Allen of Edmonton entered a guilty plea on his behalf to failing to yield to a pedestrian. Allen has been suspended pending the completion of an internal investigation. The school bus was contracted by St. Albert Public Schools and operated by First Student Canada.
Meanwhile, a truck driver in Texas was sentenced to four years in prison for fatally striking Christina Marie Lopez, 11, as she waited at a school bus stop. On Wednesday jurors in Galveston convicted Hector Pena, 47, of criminally negligent homicide. The Texas City man was originally charged with manslaughter in the September 2012 incident, but jurors opted for the lesser charge.
Last year, the girl's family won a $6.71 million civil judgment against Pena and his trucking company.
Antonio Civitella, founder, president and CEO of Transfinder, has started a "technology accelerator" in Schenectady, N.Y, to help young companies grow by providing them with access to resources, expertise and low-cost space, reported the Albany Business Review.
Civitella also signed on more than 20 other local business leaders to support NYBizLab, which falls under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's "Start Up New York." The program allows businesses to expand on or near certain college campuses in exchange for 10 years of tax exemptions.
A U.S. Chamber Foundation program called "Hiring Our Heroes" will use technology to connect service veterans with careers in trucking. It's a partnership with YRC Worldwide, the parent of YRC Freight, and trucking logistics firm Holland. School busing also attracts many veterans, though there is no known national movement to this end. A survey in the November 2012 magazine found that 60 percent of 290 respondents are former members of the military. Meanwhile, 65 percent of 173 readers said they served in a foreign war or conflict.
Graduation at this time each year is often a cause for celebration, but not for Susan Houghton of Sun Flower Hill, a nonprofit that advocates for change to available living options for individuals with special needs. She wrote in the Contra Costa Times on Sunday that her family isn't celebrating the graduation of son Robby, one of 70,000 people in California diagnosed with autism. From the age of 4, Houghton said the yellow school bus had been Robby's "lifeline ... taking him to a world of caring teachers, academics and activities. But Robby also recently turned 22, so his public school education is now over, even though he thrived in a special transition class this year that focused on life skills and job training, Houghton adds.
She tells of searching for the past year to find program options for Robby as he enters this next phase of his life. An especially promising one, Houghton was disappointed to learn, caters to higher functioning individuals such as those with Asperger's syndrome but leaves "behind those with mild to moderate delays, like Robby."
The result is that the structure Robby had grown accustomed to for the past 18 years, made possible by the school bus, are now over, at least temporarily while Hougton continues her search. Still, she writes that post-high school programs are not readily available despite 93 percent of people with autism in California being under the age of 31, or more than 65,000 cases.
"The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) mandates a free and appropriate education for special needs individuals through age 22," she writes, calling for all stakeholders to join together to create more options for work and day programs. "Students must also be trained for employment and independent living. I believe our school districts, for the most part, do a good job of providing this. But what's the point if there aren't opportunities to use those skills? Why can't there be a 'life after high school' for all who want it?"
A new independent film tells the story of a school bus driver who suffers the painful consequences of leaving behind a boy on her bus in frigid temps. The film is titled "Bluebird" for the actual bird, not the school bus manufacturer. The filmmaker is trying to raise money on Kickstarter.