In 2022, the California Legislature passed two new bills aimed at increasing student and school safety by imposing new requirements on local educational agencies (“LEAs”). While most components of the laws commence in the 2023-2024 school year, provisions related to homicidal threats, below, became effective on January 1, 2023, and may require LEAs to take immediate action to train and notify staff of new responsibilities.
Senate Bill 906
Signed on July 21, 2022 and effective January 1, 2023, Senate Bill (“SB”) 906 added sections 49390 through 49395 to the Education Code regarding a LEA’s obligation to respond to threats of homicide at schools. The new statutes require any school district employee interacting with students in grades 6 through 12, inclusive, who observes a threat or perceived threat that a student is going to “commit a homicidal act related to school or school activity” to immediately report such threat to local law enforcement. (Ed. Code, § 49393.) Any report of a homicidal threat must include any evidence associated with the threat or perceived threat. If two or more school employees observe the same concerning conduct, a report by one of the employees is sufficient to meet the obligation of all of the employees.
A “threat or perceived threat” is defined by the law as: “any writing or action of a pupil that creates a reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity.” (Ed. Code, § 49390(e).) A threat or perceived threat may be based on a student’s “possession, use, or depictions of firearms, ammunition, shootings, or targets in association with infliction of physical harm, destruction, or death in a social media post, journal, class note, or other media associated with the pupil.” A threat or perceived threat may also be based on “a warning by a parent, pupil, or other individual.”
If local law enforcement is notified of any threat or perceived threat, SB 906 requires the law enforcement agency or schoolsite police—with LEA support—to immediately conduct an investigation and assessment of the reported threat. The investigation must include “a review of the firearm registry of the Department of Justice” and if justified by reasonable suspicion, a search of the schoolsite. (Ed. Code, § 49394.)
As identified above, this reporting obligation became effective on January 1, 2023 and applies to all school district officials, as that term is defined by Education Code section 49390(c), including all classified and certificated staff, and board members.
SB 906 mandates each LEA provide parents “information related to the safe storage of firearms” in the required annual notification, which means an LEA’s first disclosure would be required in the upcoming 2023-2024 school year. We recommend the notice be included in a district’s Parent/Student Handbook. (Ed. Code § 49392.)
By July 1, 2023, the California Department of Education (“DOE”), in consultation with “relevant [LEAs], civil rights groups, and the Department of Justice,” must develop model content for the required notice. The notice must, at a minimum, “inform parents or guardians of California’s child access prevention laws and laws relating to the safe storage of firearms.” (Ed. Code, § 49391.)
Assembly Bill 452
Signed on August 29, 2022 and effective January 1, 2023, Assembly Bill (“AB”) 452 added section 48986 to the Education Code regarding parental notification of requirements for secure firearm storage. The new statute requires LEAs to “inform…the parents or guardians of each enrolled pupil of California’s child access prevention laws and laws relating to the safe storage of firearms.”
The new law’s stated intent is to address and curb “family fire,” “a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home resulting in injury or death.” Its purpose is to educate gun owners about gun storage rules in order “to protect our children from senseless death and injury and turn the statistics around.”
Similar to SB 906, AB 452 includes a mandate that each LEA provide “information related to the safe storage of firearms” in its annual notices, and directs the DOE to develop model language that addresses the new required notice. AB 452 addresses the overlapping aspects of AB 452 and SB 906. Per AB 452, an LEA may comply with the requirements of AB 452 by complying with the annual notification requirements of SB 906. Similarly, AB 452 states the DOE complies with its obligation to develop model language under AB 452 if it develops model language per SB 906. Therefore, LEAs should expect for the DOE to provide only one set of model language in response to both AB 452 and SB 906.
We recommend LEAs wait for the DOE to develop and publish model language for the required notice. Once the model language is available, the DOE is responsible for sharing the model language with all LEAs. At that time, LEAs should determine if they want to proceed using the Department’s model language or adopt and use their own language.
LEAs may contact the authors of this Alert or their regular counsel at AALRR if they have questions or would like assistance in preparing their agency to follow the requirements of AB 452 and SB 906.