Portantino Mental Health Education/Training & IEP Student Safety Bills Pass Assembly Education Committee

Wednesday, July 12 2023

For Immediate Release: July 12, 2023

Contact: Lerna Shirinian, (818) 409-0400


Portantino Mental Health Education/Training & IEP Student Safety Bills Pass Assembly Education Committee

Sacramento, California – Senate Bills 509 and 323, authored by Senator Anthony J. Portantino (D – Burbank), passed the Assembly Education Committee today. SB 509 addresses the growing mental health crisis among California’s youth by implementing mental health education and training in schools. SB 323 addresses the need for emergency safety procedures in schools.

SB 509:

Approximately 75% of mental illness manifests between the ages of 10 and 24. Under existing law, the California Department of Education is required to identify an evidence-based mental health-training program for local educational agencies to use to train teachers and other school personnel who have direct contact with pupils. However, schools are not mandated to require such training for their staff.

“We are in a severe mental health crisis and everyone must be enlisted to help. It makes sense that educators and school personnel are trained and equipped to recognize a struggling student and help them find the appropriate,” commented Senator Portantino. 

SB 509 requires the California Department of Education to ensure that teachers, classified and certificated employees on school campuses complete an evidence-based behavioral health-training program. The bill builds on the success of SB 224, a mental health education bill authored by Senator Portantino in 2021, and requires that all students between grades 1 and 12 receive evidence-based age-appropriate mental health education from a qualified instructor at least one time during elementary school, one time during middle school, and one time during high school.

“CBHA is thrilled to sponsor SB 509, which puts a capstone on the policy we have been working with Senator Portantino on for the past several years,” said Le Ondra Clark Harvey, Ph. D., Chief Executive Officer of California Council of Community Behavioral Health Agencies (CBHA). “We are proud that despite a pandemic that has exacerbated our state’s youth behavioral health crisis, we are able to rally hundreds of supporting organizations and individuals to help advance this important measure, and we await a favorable response from the Governor’s Office. It is past due time to implement policies that help ensure that teachers and school personnel are equipped to provide triage and appropriate referrals when confronted with a student behavioral health crisis on their campus.”

SB 323:

Addresses issues related to a person’s with disabilities who are not able to follow an evacuation plan, earthquake, or lockdown protocols in the same manner as the general population. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), schools must provide for the educational needs of students with disabilities and address accessibility on campus for all persons. However, the broad mandate of the ADA does not adequately ensure the safety of students with disabilities during emergencies. The IEP is updated annually by the student’s team and provides an opportunity to identify necessary accommodations for student safety.

“School safety and emergency plans should be all inclusive and that requires careful planning and coordination,” stated Senator Portantino. “Our priority is always student wellbeing. Special needs of students with disabilities can sometimes be unintentionally overlooked.  SB 323 seeks to address that situation.  I am thankful to constituent Andrea Crissman for bringing attention to this important issue and suggestion the bill idea to me.”

“My son has significant disabilities. He can’t walk, stand, or participate in a fire drill or earthquake drill, much less understand what they are and what to do,” said Andrea Crissman, a constituent and Glendale Unified parent. “I am extremely grateful to the Senator and his staff for listening to my concerns and all their work on this bill. Our most vulnerable students within special education can’t self-advocate, and run the risk of being overlooked. SB 323 sets up a safeguard and a structure for developing a more inclusive safety plan. It will help eliminate unnecessary confusion, and make it easier for educators and emergency responders to produce the best outcome in the event of a disaster.”

SB 323 would require school disaster plans to include adaptions consistent with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Typically, children covered under Section 504 either have impairments that do not fit within the eligibility categories of IDEA or that may not be as apparent as those covered under IDEA.

SB 323 will also require that the annual evaluation of the comprehensive school safety plan include a review to ensure that the safety plan includes appropriate adaptations for students with disabilities. The measure would authorize any student, employee, or parent to bring concerns about an individual student’s ability to access emergency safety measures described in the comprehensive school safety plan to the school principal.