New 2018 education laws include ending ‘meal shaming’

It’s the start of a new calendar year, and with that comes a batch of state laws affecting Orange County’s public schools and community colleges.

The slew of new laws for 2018 aims to address students health, social and emotional issues, along with targeting more tuition relief, and other issues.

students eating lunch in school cafeteriaHere is a list of the more prominent legislation taking effect.

Ending “meal shaming”

Students whose families owe money for school lunches will no longer be given only a snack, or nothing at all, until they’re all paid up on their meal plans. These students will get the same meal as all the other students. The bill will also end “meal shaming,” the practice used in some districts of verbally reprimanding students in the lunch line or stamping children’s hands as a reminder to their parents they owe money.

Water testing at schools

All public schools must now test yearly for lead in their water supplies. The law requires water agencies that serve schools to test for lead and report to parents if levels are above those considered safe for drinking. The water agency and school or district would then take immediate steps to provide a safe source of drinking water for students.

Tuition relief at community colleges

This new law would waive the $46 per unit fee for one academic year for first-time, in-state community college students. Students would need to commit to at least 12 units a semester and still submit their financial aid forms if eligible. There’s a catch though. Lawmakers still need to allocate funding in the 2018-19 budget to support the program.

Eliminating high school exit exam

The requirement for students to pass a high school exit examination as a condition of receiving a high school diploma has been eliminated. The exam had been suspended for the 2015-16 through 2017-18 school years while a state advisory panel considered whether the exam should be redesigned or ditched altogether.

Human trafficking education

Public schools are now required to offer students in grades 7-12 education and training on human trafficking identification and prevention.

Improving hygiene 

Public schools serving low-income students in grades 6 to 12 must provide free tampons and other feminine hygiene products in half of restrooms on campus.

Bus alert system

This law, which goes into effect this fall, will require school buses to be equipped with alert systems that force drivers to manually disarm or scan an alarm at the rear of the bus before exiting the bus in an effort to ensure no child is mistakenly left inside the vehicle.