Reforms

EdWatch 2013: School safety issues emerge



Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 12.28.35 AMCalifornia legislators have responded to the Connecticut shooting of school children by proposing three new gun or ammunition control laws, but so far only one bill that specifically deals with school safety.

State Senator Ted Lieu (D-Torrance)  is reintroducing Senate Bill 49, hoping it will get treated better this year. It would put some teeth into existing law that requires all schools to have safety plans. Under the proposed legislation, the state Superintendent of Public Instruction would hold back funding for a district or county office of education that has not “substantially complied with the requirement that each of its schools develop a comprehensive safety plan.” Districts could also deny a charter school petition if the petition did not include an adequate safety plan. The bill died in Appropriations last year. This time around, Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) has agreed to coauthor it.

Although the vast majority of schools in California have safety plans in place, Lieu believes that some schools do not.

“We’re in the process right now of trying to determine how many schools in California don’t have plans,” said Bryan King, a Senate staff member in Lieu’s office.

Laura Preston, a lobbyist for the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), says though safety plans are necessary, they have limited use if a school is under attack by a gunman. She would like to see Lieu’s bill amended to provide funds for training for administrators and teachers about what strategies to use if confronted with someone holding a gun. This week at San Diego State University, a training that included an actor playing a heavily armed killer roaming dormitory halls was held to better prepare staff and students.

Preston also plans to send out a questionnaire to the members of her organization about whether they support having armed personnel on campus. Several districts, including Los Angeles Unified, have beefed up police patrols since the shooting.

Preston added that she has received calls from the offices of several legislators since the Sandy Hook killings, so she wouldn’t be surprised if more bills regarding school safety will be forthcoming before the Jan. 25 deadline for introducing new bills.

Meanwhile, at least two California teachers are thinking about taking matters into their own hands. Shortly after the shooting, the Buckeye Firearms Association in Delaware, Ohio, offered an Armed Teacher Training Program. More than 600 teachers from 15 states responded, including two from California, according to Jim Irvine, a spokesman for the association. He said his group would begin offering the free training through the Tactical Defense Institute in West Union, Ohio, for Ohio teachers before moving on to teachers in other states. He would not say where in California the teachers worked. “If nobody knows where they are, they’ll have a greater effect,” he said.

Existing state law is a bit gray when it comes to whether the right of a person to carry a concealed weapon trumps the state’s Gun-Free School Zones Act (Penal Code 626.9), said Lynn Lorber, a consultant with the Senate Education Committee. For example, a superintendent could give a staff member permission to have a gun as long as it was unloaded and locked in a car or container. The ammunition, however, could be stored next to it. Districts are allowed to be more restrictive regarding guns on their premises, but if a person who works for a school gets permission to carry a concealed weapon, the school district is not notified, Lorber added.

County sheriffs or city chiefs of police decide whether someone has the need to carry a concealed weapon after that person has met other criteria, such as a clean background check.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson would take a dim view of any thoughts of arming teachers. After the shooting, Torlakson said in a press release: “In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, it’s disheartening that anyone would think the answer is to have more guns in and around schools.”

 

 

 

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4 Responses to “EdWatch 2013: School safety issues emerge”

  1. Rob Roach said

    on January 11, 2013 at 7:27 am

    We already have excisting Ed. Code to ensure that schools have excisting Comprehensive School Safety Plans (Ed. Code 32288):

    32288. (a) In order to ensure compliance with this article, each
    school shall forward its comprehensive school safety plan to the
    school district or county office of education for approval.
    (b) (1) Before adopting its comprehensive school safety plan, the
    schoolsite council or school safety planning committee shall hold a
    public meeting at the schoolsite in order to allow members of the
    public the opportunity to express an opinion about the school safety
    plan.
    (2) The schoolsite council or school safety planning committee
    shall notify, in writing, the following persons and entities, if
    available, of the public meeting:
    (A) The local mayor.
    (B) A representative of the local school employee organization.
    (C) A representative of each parent organization at the
    schoolsite, including the parent teacher association and parent
    teacher clubs.
    (D) A representative of each teacher organization at the
    schoolsite.
    (E) A representative of the student body government.
    (F) All persons who have indicated they want to be notified.
    (3) The schoolsite council or school safety planning committee is
    encouraged to notify, in writing, the following persons and entities,
    if available, of the public meeting:
    (A) A representative of the local churches.
    (B) Local civic leaders.
    (C) Local business organizations.
    (c) In order to ensure compliance with this article, each school
    district or county office of education shall annually notify the
    State Department of Education by October 15 of any schools that have
    not complied with Section 32281.

    Once again the Legislature insists on creating a whole new program. Why not enforce the current law and then admend it if found to be lacking?

  2. el said

    on January 10, 2013 at 8:45 am

    Let me rewrite my comment a bit more constructively.

    Please, let’s not pass random bits of legislation just for the sake of “doing something.”

    Shootings like this remain mercifully rare events and (thankfully) they’re probably not even the most likely disaster to affect a school.

    Rather than freak out and pass some random law about Yet Another Plan that will take time to prepare and that few people will read, why not stop and ask schools what their safety plans have uncovered as unmet needs?

    For example, it seems clear that one of the heroes of the Sandy Hook massacre was an excellent phone and PA system. Good phone systems are useful every single day. And yet, there are probably schools limping along with 70’s era phone systems. This is a win that would benefit both security *and* improve educational efficiency.

    Why not ask schools for a submission of one thing on their wish list after they prepared their safety plan? IE, you prepared your safety plan, so now tell me what you wish you could do but cannot or have not due to funding or logistics or legal concerns. That would be much smarter outreach for the Senator’s office, would tell him more about school needs, and it would also, incidentally, tell you if schools had those safety plans.

    Stop and listen. We have time to really listen to what schools need. And we should have the mental flexibility to know that the needs and responses of sites will vary considerably.

    Having a plan is a good thing. Its largest impact is in making people think through what the issues may be on that site. But just because a plan exists doesn’t mean it’s a good plan. Let’s not get too wrapped up in the amazing powers of a document.

    • navigio replied

      on January 11, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Lawmakers dont have jurisdiction over enforcement, so I expect their responses to issues is mostly to simply pass more laws, even when relevant laws already exist. This may be why we so often seem to be ‘passing random bits of legislation just for the sake of “doing something”‘. Unfortunately, when you have a society that pays little attention, just the appearance of doing something is more important than the appearance of doing nothing (even though something is already being done)..

  3. el said

    on January 10, 2013 at 8:11 am

    How exactly would this proposed bill make students safer? It just seems like a bit of bureaucracy harassing administrators.

    And why not find out if the schools have the plans before writing something into law to punish them?

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