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House Bill Removes School-Related Requirements For Teens Seeking A Driver’s License

Amy Summers - Feb 2020.jpg
Perry Bennett
WV Legislative Photography
House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4535.

The West Virginia House of Delegates debated a bill Friday that removes school attendance and satisfactory grades as requirements for teenagers to get a driver’s license.

Under the proposal, a person ages 15 to 18 who is trying to get a learner’s permit or driver’s license will no longer have to have satisfactory grades in school or have good school attendance.

“The children I'm speaking of feel they have no other option but to leave school,” said House Majority Leader Amy Summers, R-Taylor, who is the bill’s lead sponsor. “You can hold this over their head and tell them that they can't drive, [but] it doesn’t matter, they're still leaving [school]. They feel they have to go to work, or they feel they need to watch over their siblings because their parents aren't doing a good job.”

Opponents of the bill, though, argue that removing the requirement will make it harder to keep certain students in school. Some also say that the law should instead have exemptions for students in certain situations – rather than remove the requirements altogether.

“I'm very sympathetic,” said Del. Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha. “I think there probably should be an exemption for students that actually have to work in order to maintain their families. That makes sense to me. But I think it's a hammer approach to get rid of the policy that affects thousands of students who don't have those tragic circumstances and who just don't want to go to school.”

House Bill 4535 passed 68 to 25 with a handful of Republicans voting against the bill, including House Speaker Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay.

The bill now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Webmaster/Eastern Panhandle Bureau Chief/Part-time Education Reporter/Producer, emccormick@wvpublic.org, 304-876-9313, @LizMcCormickWV

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