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2019 New Laws: What's new in the classroom

Free meals, anti-bullying, school safety, and sexual health: find out more about 13 new education laws in California.

New year, new laws!

In 2019, a slew of education laws will go into effect, many of which will probably affect you or your school-aged children. Find out about some of the landmark legislation that was passed in the last year, and the changes that were made to the California education system. 

AB 2291

Summary: Bullying

Current law: The California Department of Education (CDE) must monitor whether local education agencies have adopted policies that prohibit discrimination and harassment. 

What’s new: Schools are now required to include their policies and procedures related to the prevention of bullying in school safety plans. The CDE is also required to post an online training module and schools must provide this training module to employees on an annual basis. 

Why it’s needed: Bullying has been shown to have extremely negative impacts on students and creates an unsafe environment. Studies have shown that when a student is bullied or harassed, it is often tied to the victim’s race, national origin, religion, gender, and/or sexual orientation. Educators and staff must be equipped to stop bullying in classrooms. 

SB 830

Summary: Media literacy in the classroom    

Current law: The Instructional Quality Commission is responsible for recommending curriculum and instructional materials, but there is no curriculum framework for media literacy

What’s new: The CDE is now required to make a list of resources and instructional materials on media literacy available on its website. This list will include professional development programs for teachers. 

Why it’s needed: This bill helps young adults be prepared with media literacy skills necessary to safely, responsibly, and critically consume and use social media and other forms of media. According to the author, “nearly two-thirds of American adults use social networking sites, and social media usage is ubiquitous among the youngest adults, with over 90 percent of young adults using social media.”

AB 1974

Summary: Student debts

Current law: Doesn't allow for pupil fees for any activity offered by a school district, charter school, or county office of education that is deemed a fundamental part of elementary and secondary education. However, it does permit fees for certain services, activities and materials. 

What’s new: Students and former students will no longer be billed for a debt by a public school or school district. These provisions do not apply to a debt owed as a result of vandalism or to cover the replacement cost of public school or school district books, supplies, or property loaned to a pupil that the pupil fails to return. Public schools can no longer withhold grades, transcripts, diplomas or bar participation in extracurricular activities because their parent or guardian owes money to the school. 

Why it’s needed: Parents who lack the resources to keep up with school bills are increasingly going into debt with the school district. This disproportionately affects low-income families and has led to students being denied honors certificates, transcripts, access to the school library and participation in field trips. 

AB 2289

Summary: Pregnant and parenting pupils

Current law: The law prohibits educational institutions that receive federal or state financial assistance from treating students differently based on parental, family, marital status, pregnancy or childbirth-related conditions. 

What’s new: Requires schools to grant parental leave to students who are parents or are soon to be parents, prohibits parental leave from being deemed absences in computing average daily attendance, requires schools to grant parenting pupils four excused absences per school year to care of a sick child, requires schools to notify pregnant and parenting students of their educational rights and options and requires schools to provide students with guidelines for a make-up work if individualized instruction is not available. 

Why it’s needed: The current law is discriminatory and disproportionately affecting young women. According to the author’s office: “Title IX and California’s Sex Equity in Education Act protects all students’ rights to equal and educational opportunities, regardless of sex. Yet in California, a pregnant and parenting student’s rights to an education and access to leave are dependent on their geographic location. Inconsistent educational policies across school districts have hindered a pregnant and parenting student’s right to care for their child while continuing their education.”

AB 2800

Summary: High school athletics, coach training and heat illness

Current law: The 1998 California High School Coaching Education and Training Program (HSCTP) is administered by school districts and emphasizes coaching philosophies and sports management. Coaches must get a certification in CPR and first aid. 

What’s new: AB 2800 would require high school coaches to be trained will a basic understanding of the symptoms of heat illness. It would add certification to the first aid training that high school coaches already receive that proves an understanding of signs of heat illness and the appropriate responses. 

Why it’s needed: Sadly, here in California, two students passed away from heat illness in the last year. According to the author, "The Federal Centers for Disease Control, (CDC) states that heat illness during practice or competition is the leading cause of death among U.S. high school athletes.” Especially in the Sacramento Valley, where temperatures reach into the 100s during the summer months, heat illness is a relevant concern for student-athletes. 

AB 2785 

Summary: Lactation accommodations in higher education

Current law: A student cannot be discriminated against based on that student’s pregnancy, childbirth, false pregnancy, termination of pregnancy or recovery from a terminated pregnancy. 

What’s new: AB 2785 requires California Community Colleges and the California State Universities to provide accommodations to lactating students, including a reasonable amount of time and a private room for lactation purposes. 

Why it’s needed: A parent needs to nurse or pump milk every two to three hours to establish a healthy milk flow for their child. However, CCC and CSU campuses lack consistent lactation accommodations for students. 

AB 1871

Summary: Free and reduced-price meals in charter schools. 

Current law: All K through 12 schools are required to provide one nutritional meal, but charter schools are exempt from this “State Meal Mandate.”

What’s new: AB 1871 requires charter schools to provide each student in need with one nutritional free or reduced-price meal, which will qualify for reimbursement under federal child nutrition program regulations, each school day. This exempts charter schools that only offer non-classroom-based or non-site-based instruction. 

Why it’s needed: There are many students who qualify for free or reduced-price meals who attend a charter school, but many charter schools do not provide meals to the children. For students who suffer from food insecurity, a guaranteed nutritional meal every day would make a world of difference and will help low-income parents. 

(Editor's Note:  To provide context to the scope of this issue, this will effect about 63 of the state's 1,275 charter schools, according to the California Charter Schools Association.)

AB 2601

Summary: Sexual health education in charter schools

Current law: Schools operated by California school districts are required to provide comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention instruction to all students in grades seven through 12. 

What’s new: Defines “school district” to include charter schools, extending to charter schools the requirement to provide instruction on sexual health and HIV prevention.

Why it’s needed: Comprehensive sexual health and HIV prevention have been shown to be effective in both delaying sexual activity and increasing condom and contraceptive use among youth who are already sexually active. This means more safe sex, fewer people suffering from sexually contracted diseases, and fewer teen pregnancies. 

SB 1104

Summary: Safety and human trafficking prevention resources

Current law: Each school district must ensure that all students in grades seven through 12 receive comprehensive sexual health education and HIV prevention education. This instruction includes information about sexual harassment, sexual assault, sexual abuse, and human trafficking.

What’s new: SB 1104 requires school districts to work with schools that serve students in grades six through 12 to identify the most appropriate methods of informing parents and guardians of human trafficking prevention resources and requires schools to implement those methods by Jan. 1, 2020. 

Why it’s needed: Parents and guardians are more adept at recognizing odd or uncharacteristic behavior in their children. Since there are certain behaviors that can indicate a human trafficking incident, like depression and signs of abuse, parents and guardians must have information and resources on human trafficking in order to protect their children. 

AB 1747

Summary: School safety

Current law: Each California school district is responsible for comprehensive school safety plans for grades K through 12, but many have failed to plan for an active shooter situation. 

What’s new: This new law expands school safety plans to include procedures for active shooter situations and requires schools to conduct annual active shooter drills.

Why it’s needed: Schools face challenges in preparing and responding to incidents of school violence, including active shootings. According to the author, “Results from a statewide survey of districts and county offices conducted as part of the audit suggested that the frequency of active shooter threats and incidents in and around California schools is increasing.” Safety plans must be put into place to better protect students. 

AB 1248

Summary: The right to wear religious, ceremonial, traditional tribal regalia, or cultural adornments at school graduation ceremonies

Current law: Schools can adopt a reasonable dress code policy that requires students to wear a school-wide uniform or prohibits students from wearing “gang-related” apparel. A student has a right to wear a dress uniform if they are a graduating active member of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

What’s new: Students now have the right to wear religious, ceremonial, or cultural adornments at school graduation ceremonies as long as it doesn’t replace the cap and gown. Local education agencies can still use their discretion and authority to prohibit an item that is likely to cause disruption of the ceremony.  

Why it’s needed: According to California Indian Legal Services (CLIS), “every year, school authorities deny Indian students from wearing traditional and cultural regalia during their graduation ceremonies in violation of their right to freedom of expression.” This issue is not limited to Native American students. For example, many African American students wish to wear a kente cloth, a colorful fabric sash, attached to or draped across their traditional high school graduation gowns.

AB 3043

Summary: School nutrition, summer meals, food trucks, and universal breakfast

Current law: The California Department of Education awards grants of up to $15,000 per school site for school breakfast programs. The CDE is required to develop and maintain nutrition guidelines for school lunches and breakfasts and for all food and beverages sold on public school campuses. The cost of providing adequate kitchen facilities for cafeterias is charged against the funds of the school district. 

What’s new: AB 3043 makes changes to school cafeteria funds, increasing the grant amount for school breakfast and federal summer meals programs to $30,000. This bill now requires schools that choose to provide Universal Breakfast to cover the costs of providing free meals to all students if it is above the amount provided in federal assistance, rather than putting that burden on individual cafeteria funds. This will allow districts to use cafeteria funds to purchase food trucks to expand access to meals. This bill also requires the CDE to maintain nutrition guidelines in alignment with the federal National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program. 

Why it’s needed: Food insecurity is a major problem in the U.S. that often affects children. Universal Breakfast programs help to remove the stigma among children from different economic backgrounds and eliminates student shaming. Studies show that students that eat a healthy breakfast have better academic success. Food trucks will provide more service locations on campus which will increase student access to healthy meals. 

AB 3205

Summary: Safety and door locks on classrooms

Current law: The Leroy F. Greene School Facilities Act of 1998 requires that the State Allocation Board allocate money for construction and modernization of school facilities. Existing law that all new school construction projects by include locks on classroom doors.

What’s new: AB 3205 specifically addresses older schools that plan to renovate. School construction or modernization projects must now include plans for door locks that allow classroom doors to be locked from the inside, excluding doors that are locked at all times and student restrooms. 

Why it’s needed: The fear of school shootings is very real, with a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll indicating that 73 percent of adults and 82 of public school parents saying they are “very” to "somewhat concerned” about school shootings. In situations where an active shooter is on campus, teachers can lock classroom doors to prevent attacks and keep students safe. 


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