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Death of county girl helps drive new bill calling for bus cameras

Oct 27, 2013 - By Bob Moen, The Associated Press

The 2011 death of a Fremont County child is providing impetus for creating a state law permitting the installation of camera on all public school buses in the state.

The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Education Committee is backing the bill.

Another bill would bump up the Hathaway college scholarship awards.

The committee on Friday endorsed a proposal to install cameras inside and outside school buses in hopes of better protecting students.

On Dec. 20, 2011, a Fremont County student -- 11-year-old MaKayla Marie Strahle of Crowheart -- was struck and killed as she crossed a highway after getting off a school bus that had its flashing lights activated. The driver of the vehicle was convicted of several misdemeanor charges, including homicide by vehicle.

Proponents of installing cameras on buses say it would help reduce incidents of people illegally passing stopped buses -- an action called a drive-by or fly-by.

The proposal that will be taken up by the Legislature next year would provide up to $5 million to help school districts install the cameras.

Rep. Garry Piiparinen, R-Evanston, expressed privacy concerns about cameras being installed inside the bus and recording the students.

But other members of the committee said school buses are public spaces and noted that video can also be helpful in solving incidents that happen inside a bus.

Hathaway money

The committee also approved drafting a bill to increase the Hathaway Scholarship award.

The Hathaway Scholarship is available to Wyoming residents who have attended colleges in the state since 2006.

It offers four levels of scholarship awards. Freshmen students can receive up to $3,200 a year from the program, depending on their high school grades, test scores and high school curriculum. If they maintain good grades, they can keep receiving the scholarship through college.

However, the scholarship has not been increased even though tuition at Wyoming colleges has increased.

Tuition at the University of Wyoming, for instance, has increased 25.29 percent since 2006-07.

The committee on Friday endorsed increasing each of the scholarship awards by a preliminary 10 percent in the draft legislation.

Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle and chairman of the House Education Committee, said a study of the state fund that supports the scholarship indicates that it can handle an increase in the awards.

"I think even with inflation, we've seen it grow enough that we can afford to increase contributions," Teeters said.

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