GREENSBURG – It is always exciting when the bell rings for the first time in a new school year. Students flock back to classrooms and hallways with their young minds ready to face new challenges and new assignments while reconnecting with friends. Chapter one of this school year begins with new laws to better protect students and staff.

This spring, bus drivers kept track of every stop-arm violation they spotted along their routes for one day. They found 2,500 violations across the state.

That is too many for us to sit idly by.

Under a new law, those who ignore a school bus stop arm can lose their driving privileges for 90 days. The penalty is one year if a driver breaks the law twice. These violations, and the students we tragically lost last year in northern Indiana, can not continue.

These new penalties will deter drivers to prioritize children’s safety above their commute time and stop when they see our children getting on and off buses.

Another new law gives more flexibility to schools to apply for grants to add mental health resources, hire resource officers or improve security. This gives schools the opportunity to receive up to a $100,000 matching grant to address their unique safety concerns. Each school has different challenges to tackle and this law could help solve those issues quicker.

As the new school year begins, students should focus on their homework and remembering their locker combination and catching up with friends not worried about being safe. These new tools are some of the ways we are improving safety in class and at the bus stop.

Best of luck to all our students, parents, and teachers and staff as they all work together toward academic excellence this new year. At the same time, drivers, please be on the lookout for school buses and help make this a safe school year for every Hoosier student.

State Rep. Randy Frye (R-Greensburg) represents Ohio, Ripley and Switzerland counties, as well as portions of Decatur, Jennings, Jefferson and Dearborn counties.