The California State Senate passed a bill lifting requirements for teachers to report certain incidents to law enforcement just days after a gunman in Uvalde, Texas, shot and killed 19 children and two teachers in an elementary school.
Senate Bill 1273 states that current law holds that a person “who willfully disturbs any public school or any public school meeting is guilty of a misdemeanor, and shall be punished by a fine of not more than five hundred dollars.”
The bill in question would make it so enrolled students would no longer be held liable for such an offense.
“Kids should feel comfortable and not traumatized at school,” Senator Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), the bill’s author, said at a March Senate hearing.
Bradford’s office reportedly claimed current law “led to the arrest of a student for an offense as simple as knocking on classroom doors when class is in session.”
According to the legislative counsel’s digest, the bill would repeal the provisions mandating that “whenever any employee of a school district or county superintendent of schools is attacked, assaulted, or physically threatened by any pupil,” the worker and anyone who the employee works under and knows of the incident must “promptly report the incident to specified law enforcement authorities.” If someone didn’t report such a situation, they could have been fined.
Not only would the measure get rid of this specification, but it would also change certain provisions concerning students bringing weapons to school.
The federal Gun-Free Schools Act doesn’t allow a local educational facility to get specific federal money unless it “has a policy requiring referral to the criminal justice or juvenile delinquency system of any student who brings a firearm or weapon to a school served by the local educational agency,” per the digest. The measure would make it so that referrals that violate this law are mandated, but others are not.
It would also ensure that certain potentially dangerous items don’t qualify for law enforcement referral, such as:
an instrument that expels a metallic projectile, such as a BB or a pellet, through the force of air pressure, carbon dioxide pressure, or spring action, a spot marker gun, a razor blade, or a box cutter.
Proponents of the bill say it would reduce the negative impacts students experience due to interactions with law enforcement personnel.
The ACLU is a co-sponsor of the legislation, saying that research has long shown that young people are harmed by having even a small amount of contact with law enforcement. The group pointed to data that found marginalized groups, such as “Black, Indigenous, and Latinx students, as well as students with disabilities, are disproportionately referred to law enforcement, cited, and arrested.”
However, opponents say changing the reporting mandates concerning potentially dangerous individuals could lead to less safety on school campuses.
The California State Sheriffs Association (CSSA) is against the bill, stating in early May that “[s]chool officials and law enforcement should work collaboratively, especially when it comes to students whose behavior violates the law and jeopardizes school safety.”
“Removing requirements that information about these incidents be shared with law enforcement runs counter to that notion and impedes law enforcement from being able to best protect our schools,” CSSA noted.