Senate approves plan mandating improvements to school safety preparedness

May 30, 2013
School kids would be safer under SB 49

Safety bill reintroduced in aftermath of Sandy Hook tragedy

SACRAMENTO – Worried parents would know if their children’s school has an established emergency response plan under a Sen. Ted W. Lieu bill approved late yesterday on a bipartisan, 39-0 vote by the California state Senate.

Senate Bill 49 now goes to the Assembly.

“Whether it is a natural disaster, such as an earthquake, flood, or fire; or a crime such as a shooting or illegal drug activity, each California public school would be required to have a readily-accessible safety plan that is tailored to the needs of that particular school,” Lieu, D-Torrance, said after the Senate vote. “This bill would require the California Department of Education to ensure that principals and school districts have school safety plans and that they are updated.”

Lieu said he introduced SB 49 in response to concerns by parents and police about how well schools are prepared for emergencies like shootings so schools would be better prepared for the worst by having established emergency-response plans.

“Our first responsibility is to protect our children,” said Lieu, father of two young sons in public elementary school. “When children attend public school, they are in the care of the state and we better ensure they are as safe as possible.”

Lieu explained the state currently does not know how many public schools have established school-safety plans that outline emergency steps that must be taken immediately should something horrible occur.

“Too many schools either have no school safety plan or have failed to update or disseminate their plan,” Lieu said.

Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento is a coauthor of the bill.

“The Legislature has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure basic safety requirements are enforced in our schools,” Steinberg said in support of SB 49. “Many schools have good plans in place, but that’s not enough. The safety of our children demands 100 percent compliance.”
 

Data from the school accountability report card (SARC) showed in 2009, the latest data found, that 32.5 percent, or 25 out of 77 public middle schools in Los Angeles have no safety plan at all.  Another 16 had outdated plans and/or failed to review them with staff.  In all, the noncompliance rate reported was 53.2 percent.

Lieu in 2011 sought to impose an identical requirement under Senate Bill 755, which passed policy committee but not the fiscal committee.

SB 49 would amend the Education Code to include the following:

  • Require the state Department of Education to monitor schools in order to ensure their compliance with updated safety plans.
  • Provide additional flexibility to schools by allowing them to review and update their comprehensive school safety plans once every three years, or more as needed.
  • Require school safety plans to include procedures related to active shooter and active terrorist scenarios.

When Lieu introduced SB 755 in 2011, it was in the wake of a recent lockdown of nine Los Angeles schools in response to a reported armed gunman nearby.  The episode exposed vast differences in the way many of the schools dealt with the emergency.  Those present at the command center remarked that some of the schools were woefully unprepared.  The Los Angeles police concluded that individual schools had failed to develop their own plans for managing emergencies.

More recently, schools in Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District were on lockdown because armed robbery suspects were in the area.  (As a result of redistricting, Lieu’s office covers constituents in the Palos Verdes Peninsula).   

The Assembly has not yet set a date to begin review of SB 49 but it will likely begin in about a month.

For more, visit Lieu’s Web site at the address below.

Ted W. Lieu represents the more than 1 million residents of Senate District 28, which includes the cities of Beverly Hills, Carson, El Segundo, Hermosa Beach, Lomita, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Santa Monica, Torrance, West Hollywood and the Palos Verdes Peninsula as well as portions of Long Beach and Los Angeles including, Beverly Glenn, Brentwood, Cheviot Hills, Harbor City, Hollywood Hills, Marina del Rey, Mar Vista, Pacific Palisades, Playa del Rey, San Pedro, Venice, Westwood and Wilmington. See a district map HERE: For more, visit www.senate.ca.gov/lieu.