California State Senate

Senate approves bipartisan bill to improve school safety

The California State Senate approved Senate Bill 541 by Senators Patricia Bates (R–Laguna Niguel) and Anthony Portantino (D–La Cañada Flintridge) that would require all kindergarten through 12th grade public and private schools, with an enrollment of 50 or more students, to conduct one lockdown drill per school year.

Senator Bates said, “Given the unfortunate threats to California’s schools today, we must ensure that students and staff are prepared for other dangers besides fires. In an active threat situation, seconds matter, and requiring lockdown drills can help save many lives. I thank my Senate colleagues for approving my bipartisan bill with Senator Portantino that will strengthen the safety of schools throughout California.”

Senator Portantino stated, “I am pleased to join my friend Senator Bates on this incredibly important student safety proposal. Stopping gun violence is a priority of mine and I am glad this common sense solution to making campuses safer is moving forward in the legislature. Unfortunately in today’s society, our students need to be prepared for horrific and violent situations. SB 541 will help train students and teachers by requiring lock down drills on our campuses. It is sad that we need to do them but so important we do as these types of drills just might save a life someday.”

California’s Education Code currently requires elementary schools to conduct fire drills regularly and intermediate level and secondary schools to conduct such drills at least twice a year. However, existing law does not require training for any other types of threats that may occur on a campus. Some school districts have voluntarily taken it upon themselves to conduct additional drills for other threats.

SB 541 would ensure that the vast majority of California’s schools conduct a lockdown drill each year. The bill clarifies that drills should be age-appropriate and that school officials should consider the emotional impact of the drills when planning and conducting them.

In February 2018, the Wall Street Journal published a commentary about the need for active-shooter drills on campus, citing that most deaths occur within the first five minutes. Even when armed officers are present, many times, such as the Parkland, Florida, shooting, police arrive too late to intervene. It is possible that if students and teachers were trained, it may have saved lives.

Senator Bates authored similar legislation last year (SB 1203), but it stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

SB 541 will head next to the State Assembly for its consideration.

This article was released by the California State Senate.