New California Laws Are Aimed at Enhancing School Safety

After seeing a flurry of school safety proposals in 2013, the year ended quietly, with only a handful of school safety bills enacted that will bring relatively modest change. Here is a summary of new school safety laws, which became effective January 1, 2014: 

  • AB 256 – Off-Campus Cyberbullying. This bill amended Education Code section 48900 to clarify that students may be suspended or expelled for bullying by means of an electronic act, regardless of where the cyberbullying originates. “Electronic act” is now defined as “the creation and transmission originated on or off the schoolsite, by means of an electronic device,” messages, images, sounds, and certain internet activity. The jurisdiction of a school district to suspend or expel for cyberbullying, like all other offenses, is still limited to acts that are related to school activity or attendance.
  • AB 514 – Internet Resources. This bill amended Education Code section 234.5 to require the Superintendent of Public Instruction to include on his or her Internet Web site a list of statewide resources that provide support to youth who have been subjected to school-based discrimination, harassment or bullying, and their families, as well as resources for youth who have been affected by gangs, gun violence and psychological trauma.
  • Assembly Bill 549 - Comprehensive School Safety Plans. This bill, which added Section 32282.1 to the Education Code, encourages but does not require school site councils to include in their comprehensive school safety plans guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of mental health professionals, community intervention professionals, school counselors, school resources officers and police officers on school campus, as applicable. The guidelines may include strategies to create positive school climates and culture, and prioritize mental health and intervention services, restorative and transformative justice programs, and positive behavior interventions and support.
  • Senate Bill 326 - Sex Offenders as School Volunteers. This bill amended Penal Code section 626.81 to allow a school principal to grant a registered sex offender, who is not a family member of a pupil enrolled at the school, permission to volunteer at the school with certain conditions. Specifically, at least 14 days prior to the first date for which permission has been granted, the principal must notify the parent or guardian of each child attending the school that a registered sex offender has been granted permission to come onto school grounds, the date or dates and times for which permission has been granted, and his or her right to obtain information regarding the person from law enforcement. This bill did not change the ability of sex offenders to be on campus with written permission from the principal, but it did add the requirement that prior notice be given to parents and guardians in the case of non-family volunteers.
  • Senate Bill 552 - Pupil Instruction in Violence Awareness. This bill added Sections 51210.5 and 51220.3 to the Education Code to permit but not require school district governing boards to include grade-level appropriate instruction on violence awareness and prevention in the adopted courses of study for each subject area. This instruction may include a component drawn from personal testimony in the form of oral or video histories of individuals who were involved in violence awareness efforts that exemplify the economic and cultural effects of violence prevention efforts within a city, the state and the country.