BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                  AB 2361
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          Date of Hearing:   April 2, 2008

                           ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                                 Gene Mullin, Chair
                 AB 2361 (Keene) - As Introduced:  February 21, 2008
           
          SUBJECT  :   School Safety

           SUMMARY  :  Defines "safe" and "unsafe" schools and provides a  
          parent of a public elementary or secondary school pupil the  
          option to transfer his or her child to a safe school in the  
          district or in another school district.  Specifically,  this  
          bill  :  

          1)Makes findings and declarations regarding policies established  
            by the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) and the  
            State Board of Education (SBE) defining "persistently  
            dangerous" schools and the authority of parents to transfer a  
            pupil to another school if the school is identified as  
            "persistently dangerous."

          2)Finds and declares that funding sources are available to help  
            secure school campuses, including the K-12 Violence Prevention  
            Competitive Grant Program, the Carl Washington School Safety  
            and Violence Prevention Act for grades 8 through 12; and  
            modernization funds under the Kindergarten-University Public  
            Education Facilities Bond Act of 2006.

          3)Expresses the intent of the Legislature to accomplish both of  
            the following:

             a)   To define "safe schools" in the Education Code for the  
               purposes of the federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 in  
               a manner that is consistent with subdivision (c) of Section  
               28 of Article I of the California Constitution, which  
               declares that all "students and staff of public primary,  
               elementary, junior high and senior high schools have the  
               inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure  
               and peaceful."

             b)   To give parents and guardians complete and total  
               discretion to invoke their children's constitutional right  
               to a safe school.

          4)Defines a "safe school" as a public elementary or secondary  








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            school campus where pupils and staff have no reasonable  
            apprehension with regard to the security of their person or  
            property. 

          5)Defines an "unsafe school" as a public elementary or secondary  
            school campus where pupils and staff have reasonable  
            apprehension that their person or property is not secure.   
            Stipulates that the occurrence of any of the following  
            incidents during the current or immediately preceding school  
            year shall constitute a rebuttable presumption that the campus  
            where the incident occurred is an unsafe school:

             a)   Hate violence;
             b)   Causing serious physical injury to another person,  
               except in self-defense;
             c)   Robbery or extortion;
             d)   Assault or battery upon a school employee;
             e)   Possessing, selling, or otherwise furnishing a firearm;
             f)   Brandishing a knife at another person;
             g)   Unlawfully selling a controlled substance;
             h)   Committing or attempting to commit a sexual assault or  
               sexual battery; and
             i)   Possession of an explosive.

          6)Provides that a parent or guardian of a public elementary or  
            secondary school pupil shall have the option to remove his or  
            her child from an unsafe school to a safe school within the  
            same school district if a suspension or expulsion of a pupil  
            caused by any one of the nine specified offenses occurs during  
            the current or immediate preceding school year.  Provides that  
            if no safe school exists within the district, the parent or  
            guardian shall have the option to transfer his or her child to  
            a safe school in another district.
           
          7)Requires a school district to report, as soon as is  
            practicable, a suspension or expulsion of a pupil of that  
            district for any of the incidents listed above on the Uniform  
            Management Information Reporting System page of the  
            consolidated application found on the Internet Web site of the  
            State Department of Education.

          8)Requires an unsafe school, or the school district within which  
            an unsafe school is located, to take verifiable steps toward  
            securing that school's campus. Stipulates that a verifiable  
            action includes, but is not necessarily limited to, increasing  








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            the number of campus security personnel and securing the  
            physical perimeter of the campus with fencing to improve  
            control over access to, and egress from, the campus.

           EXISTING FEDERAL LAW  requires each state that receives funds  
          under the federal NCLB to establish and implement a statewide  
          policy requiring that a pupil attending a persistently dangerous  
          school or secondary school, as determined by the state, be  
          allowed to attend a safe public elementary school or secondary  
          school within the local educational agency, including a charter  
          school. 

           FISCAL EFFECT  :  Unknown state-mandated costs to administer  
          school transfers and to secure "unsafe" school campuses,  
          including increasing the number of campus security personnel,  
          installing fencing around the perimeter of schools, and other  
          measures.

           COMMENTS  :   AB 2361 states that the intent of the bill is to  
          define "safe schools" for the purposes of the NCLB in the  
          Education Code that is consistent with the California  
          Constitution.  California, however, already complies with NCLB  
          requirements.  The NCLB, as a condition for receipt of funds,  
          requires states to establish criteria for identifying unsafe  
          schools and under the Unsafe Schools Choice Option, authorizes a  
          parent to transfer a pupil to another school if the school is  
          designated as "persistently dangerous."  Pursuant to the  
          requirement, in 2002, the California Department of Education  
          (CDE) convened an advisory committee comprised of 30 local  
          educational agencies and staff from the Department of Finance,  
          Legislative Analyst's Office, CDE and the SBE, which held many  
          public meetings over the course of 18 months, to establish the  
          policies.  

          The regulations that were ultimately adopted, which the advisory  
          committee found is stricter than that of most states, defines a  
          "persistently dangerous" school as one in which the number of  
          non-student firearm violations and students expelled for any of  
          nine specified serious offenses is greater than three, or, for  
          larger schools, the number of non-student firearm violations and  
          students expelled for any of the nine specified offenses is  
          greater than one percent of enrollment each year, for three  
          consecutive years.  The nine specified offenses that define a  
          persistently dangerous school are the same offenses listed in  
          this bill.  








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          The NCLB also requires that any elementary or secondary school  
          student who becomes a victim of a violent crime while on school  
          grounds be allowed to transfer to another school, whether or not  
          the school is identified as persistently dangerous.   
           
          The definition of a "safe" school proposed by this bill appears  
          very subjective and may not be implementable  .  The bill defines  
          a "safe" school as a public elementary or secondary school  
          campus where pupils and staff have no reasonable apprehension  
          with regard to the security of their person or property.  It is  
          unclear who would establish that the pupils and staff have no  
          reasonable apprehension about their security, or the criteria  
          for establishing that determination.  If even one pupil or staff  
          feels apprehension about his or her security, would that school  
          be considered an "unsafe" school?

           This bill's attempt to define safe and unsafe schools for the  
          purpose of meeting NCLB is inconsistent with the NCLB  
          guidelines  , which stipulate that:  1.) states are to consult  
          with a representative sampling of local educational agencies in  
          developing the criteria to be used in identifying unsafe  
          schools; and 2.) requires the criteria to be objective and could  
          use data or patterns of incidents in determining whether a  
          school is persistently dangerous.  As previously noted, the  
          definitions proposed by this bill appear subjective.
           
           If this bill is enacted, California's laws and regulations will  
          have conflicting definitions of safe and unsafe schools  .  This  
          bill does not eliminate the regulations establishing the  
          definition of "persistently dangerous" schools or transfer  
          policies pursuant to NCLB requirements.  If the bill is enacted,  
          provisions in the statute will override regulations, which may  
          put California out of compliance with NCLB.  

          The bill provides that a suspension or expulsion due to any of  
          the nine listed offenses during the current or immediately  
          preceding year shall constitute rebuttable presumption that the  
          school is "unsafe".  In 2006-07, expulsions were reported in all  
          but two counties and suspensions were reported in all counties.   
          The fact that all counties reported occurrences of offenses  
          raises questions about how many schools would actually be  
          considered "safe" under this bill.  

          The bill's requirement that all districts report a suspension or  








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          expulsion for any of the listed offenses to the CDE through the  
          Uniform Management Information Reporting System is already  
          required under existing regulations.  Currently, CDE monitors  
          districts that are at risk of being identified as persistently  
          dangerous through this reporting mechanism.

           Arguments in Support  .  The author states that the bill "gives  
          parents and guardians the tools to invoke their child's  
          constitutional right to a safe school by providing a reasonable  
          definition of a safe and an unsafe school."  The author further  
          states that the current "persistently dangerous school"  
          calculation is overly broad.

           Arguments in Opposition  .  The California Federation of Teachers  
          states, "We believe this bill far exceeds the requirement and  
          definition of unsafe school as put forward by federal  
          requirement.  Plus, this may have the opposite effect of  
          increasing the safety of a school.  If a single suspension or  
          expulsion would lead to the designation of an unsafe school,  
          then the administration may take steps to dispense another type  
          of punishment that would not be as effective or provide adequate  
          safety to the school."

           Prior Legislation  .  AB 331 (Emmerson), which failed on a 3-7  
          votes in this committee last year, would have required schools  
          to report information on the school accountability report card  
          regarding the number of incidents of specified types of criminal  
          violations that occurred at schools that have been identified as  
          "persistently dangerous."  

           REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION  :   

           Support 
           
          None on file

           Opposition 

           California Federation of Teachers

           Analysis Prepared by  :    Sophia Kwong Kim / ED. / (916) 319-2087  












                                                                  AB 2361
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