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Bill to let Nevada teens drive to charter schools raises concerns

Updated March 21, 2019 - 8:01 pm

CARSON CITY — A bill to let under-16 charter school students drive to school raised concerns about safety and fairness and drew some opposition from urban-area lawmakers in a hearing before the Assembly Growth and Infrastructure committee Thursday.

Statewide there are 45 high school students under 16 who hold a special restricted license permitting them to drive exclusively to and from school, according to state DMV figures. Most of them reside in rural areas.

For public school students, current state law permits the special license to be issued in counties with fewer than 55,000 residents and towns with less than 25,000 people. The rules are different for students enrolled at private schools that don’t provide transportation, who can apply for restricted licenses anywhere in the state, including the busiest cities.

Assembly Bill 213, sponsored by Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, R-Sparks, would extend the same rules for private school student drivers to those enrolled at charter schools that don’t provide transportation. The total enrollment in charter schools where the law would apply is about 4,300, Hansen said.

Amid questions of safety for young drivers and the dangers of traffic generally, Hansen and charter school representatives said students who apply for the special permit need approval from DMV, their school and their parents. They must drive a prescribed safest route to and from school only.

“I know that it’s not for every kid,” said Hansen, a mother of eight grown children. “It’s about equity and letting the parents, the DMV and the principal of the school help make the decision that the student is mature and responsible enough to handle the responsibility.”

Charter school representatives testified in support of the measure, while the Nevada State Education Association, representing public school teachers, said they opposed it on grounds that it gave preferential treatment to charter schools that should have to provide their own student transportation.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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