Legislation would put enforcement teeth into school safety plan requirement

As a national debate continues to simmer over the best methods for protecting students from gun violence, a state senator from Southern California points out that a large number of school districts are failing to develop or update school safety plans - as required by law.

To remedy the problem, Sen. Ted Lieu, D- Torrance, has reintroduced legislation putting stronger enforcement components into existing law to promote compliance.

"Currently the state does not have accurate figures on how many public schools have established school-safety plans that outline emergency steps that must be taken immediately should something horrible occur," Lieu said in a statement. "As of last year, no district has ever been fined for failing to report a school that has not developed a school- safety plan. As a result, too many schools either have no school safety plan or have failed to update or disseminate their plan."

The state constitution requires a safe and secure learning environment and the California Education Code also mandates each school site to have a comprehensive safety plan that protects students and staff in the event of a natural disaster or man-made crisis.

According to a review of School Accountability Report Cards conducted by Lieu's office, about one third of the middle schools in Los Angeles had no safety plans at all as of 2009 - the latest data available.

A key problem with the existing requirement, Lieu said, is the fact that districts self-report on the status of their safety plans. The senator's office said they were unable to find any school district being sanctioned for failing to provide an adequate safety plan going back 10 years.

As proposed, SB 49 would:

Require annual school financial audits to include a summary of the school's compliance with an updated safety plan.

Require the State Department of Education to publish the list of non-complying schools on their website.

As determined by the audit, any school that has failed to abide by the school safety plan or report noncompliance will have their next principle apportionment withheld until the mistake has been corrected.

Clarify that the provisions of school safety plans apply to charter school petitions.

Require school safety plans to include procedures related to active shooter and active terrorist scenarios.

A previous version of the bill, SB 755, died in committee last year perhaps because it would have imposed a state-mandate on local districts. The new version has also been identified for creating a state mandate.

The school safety plan, which is intended to be a product of community input, must include the district's discrimination, hate crime and harassment policies, any school-wide dress codes or prohibition against wearing "gang-related apparel." The plan needs to address the safety of students and staff at drop-off points and the circulation of traffic on school grounds.

To learn more about school safety strategies visit the California School Boards Association's website and their updated "Safe Schools" report.

http://www.csba.org/en/EducationIssues/EducationIssues/Safety.aspx

To learn more about SB 49 visit:

http://sd28.senate.ca.gov/news/2013-01-16-sen-ted-w-lieu-praises-president-obama-s-executive-orders-school-safety

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