Portantino Teacher Protection & School Safety Bills Pass Senate Education Committee

Thursday, April 13 2023

For Immediate Release: April 13, 2023

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400

Portantino Teacher Protection & School Safety Bills Pass Senate Education Committee

Sacramento, California – Senate Bills 596 and 671, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank), passed the Senate Education Committee. SB 596 addresses the issue of teachers facing harassment and aims to provide a safe and inclusive environment for all students and teachers. SB 671 addresses comprehensive school safety plans.

SB 596:

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. Incidents of teacher harassment not only occur at school sites, but also in off campus settings and on social media platforms.

“Teachers are being intimidated and harassed for doing their jobs,” stated Senator Portantino. “SB 596 will ensure that educators can safely continue to be 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.”

SB 596 would make it a misdemeanor to subject a school employee to threats or harassment for reasons related to their official duties while they are away from a school site or after school hours.

“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 educators in the process. These extremist elements are targeting the core tenants of inclusive public education and using threats of violence to achieve their means. 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. 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.”

SB 671:

Between 2020-21, there were 93 school shootings at public and private elementary and secondary schools nationwide. This statistic is the highest since the 2000-2001 school year. Furthermore, data from the California Department of Education indicates that there were nearly 47,000 suspensions and expulsions statewide during the 2021-22 school year stemming from violent incidents that resulted in an injury.

Under existing law, school districts and county offices of education are required to develop comprehensive school safety plans for all K-12 schools in their jurisdiction through a transparent process and collaboration with law enforcement, the fire department, and other first responders. SB 671 would require that comprehensive school safety plans also include procedures to assess and respond to reports or threats of dangerous, violent or unlawful activity occurring on campus, on a school bus or at school sponsored events.

“While these school safety plans endeavor to keep our children safe at school, tragic acts of violence remain all too common on our campuses,” stated Senator Portantino. “The increase in violence at our schools cannot be ignored. To ensure student safety, it’s important that our schools are prepared to assess and respond to threats of violence on campus.”