Senate Bills 671 and 323, authored by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, were signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
SB 671 addresses comprehensive school safety procedures and is sponsored by the Glendale Police Department, and SB 323 addresses the need for emergency safety procedures in schools.
Between 2021-22, there were 327 school shootings at public and private elementary and secondary schools nationwide. This statistic is the highest since the 2000-01 school year. Furthermore, data from the California Department of Education indicates that there were nearly 47,000 suspensions and expulsions statewide during the 2021-22 school year stemming from violent incidents that resulted in an injury.
SB 671 requires school safety plans to include procedures and protocols to assess and respond to reports or threats of dangerous, violent or unlawful activity occurring on campuses, at school-sponsored events, and/or on a school bus.
“I am grateful to Gov. Newsom for recognizing that tragic acts of violence in our schools cannot be ignored,” Portantino said. “To ensure student safety, it’s important that our schools are prepared to assess and respond to threats of violence on campus.”
Portantino has authored a number of gun safety laws. This year, Newsom has signed two of his bills.
“I am proud to support SB 671, which recognizes the crucial importance of student safety,” said Glendale Police Chief Manuel Cid. “By mandating specific procedures to address threats of violence and unlawful activity, this bill strengthens comprehensive school safety plans, making our schools safer for California students. I extend my gratitude to Sen. Anthony Portantino for championing this vital legislation.”
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, schools must provide for the educational needs of students with disabilities and address accessibility on campus for all persons. However, the broad mandate of the ADA does not adequately ensure the safety of students with disabilities during emergencies. The student’s individualized education plan is updated annually by the student’s team, consisting of parents, teachers and admistrators, and provides an opportunity to identify necessary accommodations for student safety. That’s why SB 323 was so significant to become law.
“School safety and emergency plans should be all inclusive and that requires careful planning and coordination,” Portantino said. “Our priority is always student well-being. Special needs of students with disabilities can sometimes be unintentionally overlooked. SB 323 addresses this situation. I am thankful to constituent Andrea Crissman for bringing attention to this important issue and suggestion the bill idea to me and I am grateful to Gov. Newsom for signing it into law.”
SB 323 requires school disaster procedures to include accommodations for students with disabilities in accordance with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and Section 504 of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Typically, children covered under Section 504 either have impairments that do not fit within the eligibility categories of IDEA or that may not be as apparent as those covered under IDEA. SB 323 will ensure that all our students have saftey plans in place if tragedy occurs and student saftey actions are needed.
“Depending on the disability, the school building and geography, the type of disaster, and other circumstances, not all students can follow safety procedures as easily as their peers,” said Andrea Crissman, a constituent and Glendale Unified parent. “Students who have disabilities are among the most vulnerable. It can happen that people forget or overlook the need for exceptions to the standard school disaster plan for certain students. SB 323 addresses this need, and will help bring attention to accommodations that can be built into a school’s disaster plan. None of these concerns would have occurred to me if my son was not disabled.
“Sen. Portantino was able to appreciate the need for additional safety guardrails for students with disabilities,” she added. “I am extremely grateful to him for making this issue a priority. The senator has an amazing ability to open people’s eyes to issues, and rally them around a solution. I am so thankful that we have a Senator representing us who gets things done.”
SB 323 also requires that the annual evaluation of the comprehensive school safety plans includes a review to ensure that the plans include appropriate adaptations for students with disabilities. The measure also authorizes any students, employees, or parents to bring concerns about a student’s ability to access emergency safety measures described in the comprehensive school safety plan to the attention of the school principal.
First published in the October 14 print issue of the Burbank Leader.