7 new laws you need to know

December 9, 2019
There are hundreds of new laws set to take effect in 2020. Here is a roundup of seven bills that are most important for school administrators to know about. For more information on any of these bills, visit www.lozanosmith.com/news-clientnewsbriefs.phpAB 272: Student smartphone use Assembly Bill 272, which becomes effective Jan. 1, will authorize school districts to adopt a policy to limit or prohibit student smartphone use while also granting students certain specific rights to possess and use a smartphone at school. Even though smartphone policies or guidelines are widely used already, this bill provides specific authorization, while also defining some limitations. In particular, a student shall not be prohibited from possessing or using a smartphone at school: 1) During an emergency situation or as a response to a perceived threat of danger; 2) When a teacher or administrator gives permission to a student to possess or use a cell phone, subject to reasonable limitations imposed by the person giving permission; 3) When necessary for the health or well-being of a student, as determined by a licensed physician and surgeon; and 4) When possession or use of the cell phone is required pursuant to a student’s Individualized Education Program. SB 149: Willful defiance Senate Bill 419 expands the existing ban on suspending students in grades K-3 for disrupting school activities or committing an act of willful defiance. The ban on such suspensions now extends to grades 4-5 permanently and to grades 6-8 for five years. The new law, which takes effect on July 1, 2020, applies to both traditional public schools and charter schools. Current education code provides that a student may be suspended if he or she “disrupted school activities or otherwise willfully defied the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties.” SB 419’s broader ban comes in response, in part, to criticism that this category of suspensions is an overly-broad and subjective catchall for any behavior a teacher finds objectionable, such as refusing to remove a hat, talking back, or refusing to follow school rules, and that its use disproportionately affects students of color, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students. SB 419 also maintains the restriction on expelling any student if the sole basis for the expulsion was a disruption or willful defiance offense. These restrictions now apply to public and charter schools alike. SB 419 also now explicitly encourages school districts’ use of alternative disciplinary practices, including restorative justice practices, trauma-informed practices, social and emotional learning, and schoolwide positive behavior interventions and support. SB 419 does not change existing law that allows a teacher to suspend a student from his or her own class for the day of the incident and the following day. SB 276 and 714: Medical exemptions from immunizations Through Senate Bills 276 and 714, California lawmakers demonstrated a concerted effort to narrow the use of medical exemptions from immunization requirements by requiring a singular exemption form and consolidating oversight through the California Department of Public Health. In creating stricter scrutiny over medical exemptions, SB 276 and 714 continue in the spirit of SB 277, adopted in 2015, which eliminated religious and personal belief exemptions to school vaccine mandates. By Jan. 1, 2021, the CDPH must develop an electronic, standardized, statewide medical exemption certification form that must be used by licensed physicians and surgeons and must be transmitted directly to the California Immunization Registry. As of Jan. 1, 2021, this standardized form will be the only medical exemption form that school districts may accept. In the near-term, parents or guardians may continue to file a written statement by a licensed physician and surgeon to the effect that the child’s physical condition is such that immunization is not considered safe, and that the child will still be exempt from the specified requirements until Jan. 1, 2021. Students who have an existing medical exemption, issued before Jan. 1, 2020, may continue with enrollment in school until the child enrolls in the next “grade span.” These are defined as birth to preschool, kindergarten (including TK) to grade 6, and grades 7-12. The bills also add a process for parents and guardians to appeal to the Secretary of California Health and Human Services if a medical exemption is revoked. A student whose revocation is appealed shall continue to attend school as long as the appeal is filed within 30 days of revocation of the medical exemption. In addition, schools and institutions that have 1) an overall immunization rate of less than 95 percent, 2) waivers from a physician or surgeon who submitted five or more medical exemptions in a calendar year, or 3) not provided reports on vaccination rates to the CDPH, will be subject to, at a minimum, an annual review by the CDPH of all immunization reports. SB 328: School start times SB 328 establishes new mandatory school day start times for most middle schools and high schools. The bill requires high schools to set the beginning of the school day no earlier than 8:30 a.m. and middle schools at no earlier than 8 a.m. The reasoning behind this new law is based on studies showing increased academic performance, school attendance, and health for students at schools that started later in the day. SB 328 raises several questions for school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools, including: Implementation date: The new start times must be implemented by July 1, 2022, unless the school district or charter school has a collective bargaining agreement that is operative on Jan. 1, 2020 and expires after July 1, 2022; in that case, the new start times shall be implemented at the expiration of that collective bargaining agreement. Most school districts have two collective bargaining agreements, one with their teachers and certificated personnel, and the other with classified personnel. Unfortunately, SB 328 does not distinguish whether one or both collective bargaining agreements must expire for this mandate to be implemented. Collective bargaining: In addition to questions regarding when SB 328 will be implemented, collective bargaining may also be required to set new start and end times for employees, and districts affected by SB 328 will need to give notice and offer to negotiate these changes with their bargaining units. Rural school districts: SB 328 provides that rural school districts are exempted from the new school start time. However, the law does not currently provide a definition of a “rural school district.” This rural exemption only applies to school districts, but not to charter schools. Enforcement: The text of the new statute is silent as to how SB 328 might be enforced to ensure compliance. Middle school and high school: SB 328 lacks a definition of “middle school” and of “high school.” Does “middle school” cover grades 6 to 8 or 7 and 8 only, and does this mandate apply to elementary schools which serve grades ranging from kindergarten to eighth grade? AB 1353: Classified employee probation period Assembly Bill 1353 limits the probationary period for classified employees to six months, or 130 days of paid service, whichever is longer. The purpose of this bill is to harmonize the varying probationary periods for classified employees between merit system and non-merit system school districts. This bill eliminates the difference in probationary periods. Any paid days, including holidays, should be included in counting 130 days of “paid service.” AB 1353 also provides a grace period for districts that, prior to Jan. 1, 2020, entered into an agreement with their classified union that conflicts with this bill. Under such circumstances, the provisions of AB 1353 shall not apply to the school district until expiration or renewal of the collective bargaining agreement. After Jan. 1, 2020, districts will need to update both their board policies and/or administrative regulations as well as any collective bargaining agreement language which conflicts with the new six months/ 130 days requirement. SB 316: Student identification cards, domestic violence hotline Senate Bill 316 will require schools serving students in grades 7-12 that issue student identification cards to also print the telephone number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233) on either side of the cards. The bill goes into effect Oct. 1, 2020. These new requirements apply when student identification cards are issued for the first time or when lost or damaged cards are replaced. Schools that have a supply of unissued cards as of Jan. 1, 2020 that do not include the new information must continue to issue those cards until that supply is depleted. AB 982: Suspension homework AB 982 will require all public and charter school teachers to provide homework assignments to suspended students, upon request, to prevent those students from falling behind. Teachers have historically had the option whether or not to require suspended students to complete any assignments and tests missed during the term of their suspension.

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