Calif. School Safety Bill Signed Into Law

NORWALK, Calif. — Assemblymember Tony Mendoza’s school safety bill, AB 123, was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Aug. 3. The law will take effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

The bill would add language to Penal Code 626.8 addressing disruptive messages where the disturbance threatens the physical safety of school children in preschool, elementary school, or middle school while they are coming to, leaving from, or attending school.

In March 2003, the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform held a demonstration outside of a Los Angeles County middle school, which included billboard-sized graphic photographs of aborted fetuses. Students, who were walking to and being dropped off for classes, became agitated because of the disturbing nature of the photographs. Some became angry, some began to cry, and others stared while standing in the street and on the sidewalk, creating a traffic safety hazard. The school’s administrators notified the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department and the sheriffs detained the demonstrators, based on the determination that Penal Code section 626.8 had been violated.

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform filed a subsequent lawsuit and eventually won on appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The court stated that if the California Legislature adopted statutory language to address this situation, the outcome might be different for future instances. AB 123 creates such statutory language.

“School administrators and local law enforcement must have a legal recourse to deal with disruptions that may result in physical harm to students,” says Assemblymember Tony Mendoza. “This bill will give school administrators the tools they need to ensure student safety without overly burdening the right of free expression.”

This bill is identical to AB 2478, which Assemblymember Mendoza authored in 2010.  The bill was approved by the Legislature but was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger.

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