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Senate passes bill regarding student fees

by Angelica Relente, Herald Legislative Writer
| April 7, 2021 1:00 AM

By Angelica Relente

Herald Legislative Writer

In a 25-23 vote, the Washington state Senate passed a bill during a virtual legislative debate Tuesday that would prevent students from having their grades or transcript withheld due to fines they may incur.

House Bill 1176 would discontinue a school district’s ability to withhold a student’s grades and transcript if the student has not paid for damages they made on school property, according to the bill’s text.

Additionally, public and private schools would not have the ability to withhold the transfer of a student’s official transcript due to unpaid tuition or fines, according to the bill’s text.

The House passed HB 1176 on Feb. 24 in a 77-20 vote. The bill will return to the House to consider the amendment from the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee.

Sen. Lisa Wellman, D-Mercer Island, said during the virtual legislative debate there are times when students incur library fines or damage school equipment they are unable to pay. HB 1176 does not obviate the need for reconciliation, she said.

“This is a small but important bill to so many students,” Wellman said.

In many cases, students of color are impacted by having their grades or transcript withheld — impediments that “really shouldn’t be put in kids way,” Wellman said. HB 1176 will help them move on to the next step of their life, she said.

Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, said during the virtual legislative debate when a student damages school property, there should be consequences. It sends an important message and becomes a learning opportunity for them, he said.

“I think it’s reasonable for school districts to be able to withhold grades, transcripts or other things like that,” Hawkins said.

Sen. Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, said during the virtual legislative debate doing the right thing does not cost anything. Paying a library fine or returning an athletic uniform are life lessons school principals and coaches use to teach their students, he said.

“These are valuable lessons for our young people about simply doing the right thing,” Schoesler said.

Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest, said during the virtual legislative debate when she thinks of bills like HB 1176, she thinks of students “who have little or no control” over things happening in their life.

Nobles said when she worked her day job Monday, she helped a family that was experiencing homelessness move into a hotel. Three children in the family had school laptops — she said she hopes they would not be penalized if, for some reason, they cannot return them.

“I ask that … we consider this legislation necessary to not penalize students who are doing the best that they can,” Nobles said. “It has nothing to do with their lack of responsibility and more to do with simple survival.”

During the morning session, the Senate also passed these bills:

HB 1207 (49-0): Extends renewal cycle for driver’s licenses and other identification cards to eight years and expands license renewal services online. The bill will return to the House to consider the Senate’s amendment.

HB 1009 (in a 29-19 vote): Makes abortion covered under certain student health plans issued or renewed on or after Jan. 1, 2022. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

HB 1148 (32-16): Establishes civil fines and conditions for hospitals that choose not to comply with state licensing requirements. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.