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UPDATE AND CORRECTION: Student health assessments could expand

Rep. John Torbett
Rep. John Torbett

UPDATE: A bill requiring all students entering the state school system for the first time get a health assessment passed a second reading in the House yesterday. (The article originally stated that it passed the House. That was incorrect. The bill is slated to come back before the House on March 23.)

Two amendments were added to the bill before passage. One, requested Tuesday by Democrat Rep. Rick Glazier, says that a child won’t be suspended for absences as a result of not having a health assessment. The child wouldn’t be allowed to attend school, but he or she would be allowed to make up work and exams missed. 

The second amendment extended the amount of time a family has to present the health assessment from 30 to 60 days. Democrat Rep. Tricia Ann Cotham asked for extended time for families during Tuesday’s House K-12 Education Committee, but at the time bill sponsor Republican Rep. John Torbett said no. 

Continue reading below for background from Tuesday’s committee meeting.

A bill that would require all students entering the state school system for the first time to get a health assessment cleared the House K-12 Education Committee Wednesday. 

Currently, the requirement only applies to kindergarteners, and though it made it through committee, some lawmakers expressed concerns. 

“I just really worry, real world, how this is going to work,” said Democrat Rep. Tricia Ann Cotham.

In particular, she was concerned about children in poverty who may have trouble getting an assessment within the required 30 day period. 

Republican Rep. John Torbett, the primary sponsor of the legislation, said the bill was simple and that the assessment is already required of kindergarteners, so incorporating other grades shouldn’t prove to be a big burden. 

He agreed to amend the language of the bill so that students who weren’t able to get the required assessment on time wouldn’t be subject to the same penalties associated with suspension. But any students who doesn’t meet the requirement wouldn’t be able to attend school until the assessment is performed. Democrat Rep. Rick Glazier asked for the suspension change, saying that he believes the bill is a good idea. 

“I agree completely that the bill is needed and a good bill,” he said. 

Democrat Rep. Graig Meyer also expressed some concern about immigrant children and their ability to meet the requirement. 

“Those are all extremely daunting tasks. I’m afraid that this kind of requirement would make it very difficult for those kids to have a good acclimation to the school,” he said. 

The bill is scheduled to go before the House today.

Correction

Alex Granados

Alex Granados is senior reporter for EducationNC.