Senator Portantino Introduces Bill to Protect Teachers from Harassment

Thursday, February 16 2023

For Immediate Release: February 16, 2023

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Senator Portantino Introduces Bill to Protect Teachers from Harassment

Sacramento, California – Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank) introduced Senate Bill 596, a measure that addresses the issue of teachers facing harassment and greater scrutiny over lessons taught in the classroom. The measure aims to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and teachers.

“Actions that incite fear amongst educators who are teaching in accordance with state standards are counterproductive, unacceptable and potentially dangerous,” stated Senator Portantino. “Too many teachers are being intimidated and harassed for just doing their job. SB 596 will ensure that they can continue to be dedicated educators, helping their students thrive unencumbered by fear and intimidation. I am very grateful to the teachers in my district for their commitment to our children and for bringing the need for this bill to my attention.”

Schools across the country are facing greater scrutiny over lessons taught in the classroom. In 2022, the UCLA Institute for Democracy, Education and Access and the UC Riverside Civic Engagement Research Group conducted a study surveying 682 high school principals across the country. According to the study, 48% of principals reported that parents or community members tried to challenge or limit policies promoting the rights of LGBTQ+ students. Last year, a local elementary school teacher was transferred to a different school site due to safety concerns after receiving threats for talking to students about LGBTQ Pride Month. These incidents do not solely occur while teachers are at their respective school sites. In addition, some receive threats in off campus settings and on social media platforms.

SB 596 would make it a misdemeanor to interfere, through threats, harassment or similar conduct, with a school employee’s daily life away from a school site or after school hours for reasons related to their official duties.

“Across the country, educators are facing an eminent threat against our profession and our livelihoods,” stated Glendale Unified School District teacher Patrick Davarhanian. “There is a calculated effort by radical extremists to ban books in our libraries, censor classes that teach accurate and honest history, and harass and threaten educators in the process. These extremist elements are targeting the core tenants of inclusive public education and attempting to use threats of violence to achieve their means. From insults and bullying to intimidation tactics and death threats, our educators have had to endure an onslaught of harassment both inside and outside the classroom. A civil society that values diversity, embraces critical thinking, and promotes quality education cannot capitulate to hate, bigotry and intimidation. We must not allow these threats of violence to go unanswered. We must stand with our educators, protect our students, and defend public education.”

“Having worked in the field of education for over a decade, we have faced many challenges to our profession,” said Gagik Galfayan, also a teacher in the Glendale Unified School District. “But no challenge has been greater than the threats of violence educators are receiving as a result of an outpouring of hate and intolerance. Educators are committed to teaching honest, accurate history, and fostering inclusive classrooms. Our expertise in pedagogy, our respect for state standards, and our passion for teaching students guides our instruction. With continued support from our communities and the leadership of trusted public servants, we are confident that our pledge to educate our youth and prepare them for the future will be fulfilled.”