New Virginia Law Requires Autism Training for School Bus Monitors

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A new bill in effect July 1 requires school boards to provide training for aides who work with students with autism in student behavior management.

The state General Assembly in April passed HB325, which applies to aides assigned to work with teachers as well as other school employees, including those in transportation. It mandates that, by Sept. 1, 2014, aides be trained within 60 days of taking the job. Those who aid teachers “primarily responsible” for students with autism spectrum disorders must complete 40 hours of training and other personnel with “other oversight responsibility” for students with autism spectrum disorders must complete 12 hours.

The bill directs the Virginia Board of Education, working with Virginia Commonwealth University, to provide training standards for schools to use to fulfill the requirement and develop online training schools can use for free.

Del. Jimmie Massie first introduced the legislation a few years ago at the request of John Maloney, a Henrico County resident and a local autism activist associated with the Virginia Autism Project. The legislation changed throughout that time before winning approval from state lawmakers this year.

A similar bill Massie proposed in 2011 gained attention after the media reported on a lawsuit filed by the father of an autistic boy against a Bedford County school bus driver and bus aid, claiming both repeatedly hit and kicked the student aboard a bus. During the incident, which was recorded by a video surveillance camera inside the bus, the student was isolated in his seat by tightened harnesses on each shoulder.

Virginia’s 132 school divisions in December reported 13,137 students with autism as their primary disability, representing a 490 percent increase since 2000, when 2,226 children were identified as having a form of autism spectrum disorder, according to the Virginia Department of Education.