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Board eases student travel curbs

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The Salt Lake School Board Tuesday eased up on student trip restrictions proposed after two Highland High debate students died in a car crash.

But it didn't address some matters crucial to the parents of 17-year-old Eric Sabodski, who was killed in the crash.

"What about the insurance responsibility outside state risk management?" Theresa Sabodski said after the meeting.

The State Division of Risk Management, the district's insurance agency, was limited in its coverage at the time of the crash. The maximum $500,000 per incident wasn't enough to pay medical bills for six families.

The 2000 Legislature raised the limit to $1 million per incident. But the new law doesn't take effect until July.

The school board wants to beef up its travel policy in light of the November crash that killed Sabodski and 14-year-old Jeffrey Horman and injured four others. Victims' families asked for additional safety provisions; the Sabodskis Tuesday said they would like to see disciplinary measures for violators.

The students were coming home from a debate meet in California when the rented van they were riding in rolled in Millard County. The 23-year-old driver, an assistant debate coach, apparently fell asleep at the wheel, according to police reports.

Weeks after the crash, the board proposed cracking down on travel distance, time, driver ages and mode of travel in efforts to boost safety. Then it asked school communities to weigh in on the restrictions.

In short, not everybody liked the ideas.

Requiring long-trip drivers to be at least 25 years old would exclude some coaches, some high school representatives noted.

Some said renting vehicles for long trips would take a bite out of school travel budgets.

Risk management recommended banning students from driving peers to activities, no matter how far away — a suggestion some board members said would be too restrictive.

In the end, the board addressed some concerns, including deleting a booster seat requirement for children who weigh less than 80 pounds, allowing students to drive on trips of up to 100 miles instead of 70 miles, and allowing for 10-hour drives instead of eight.

Also, the district won't rent 15-passenger vans that new research shows are at risk for rollovers, business administrator Gary Harmer said. Vans carrying more than 10 passengers must have all the lights and equipment of a school bus, plus a certified school bus driver, under district guidelines.

The proposed rules will be discussed at least once more before voting. Board President Joel Briscoe encouraged parents and schools to weigh in on the issue.

Overall, the Sabodskis complimented the board's discussion.

"It was a good meeting in general. There were good thoughts, and they will write a good policy," Freddie Sabodski said.


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com