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Lieu Reintroduces School Safety Bill

The bill would require all public schools to have well defined safety plans for emergencies.

Less than a week after a school shooting in Newtown, Conn. claimed the lives of 26 people, California State Sen. Ted Lieu announced Monday he will reintroduce a bill that would require all public schools in California to have established emergency response plans.

The bill, which was originally introduced by the South Bay senator in 2011 but failed to pass the fiscal committee, would require all public schools in California to maintain established emergency response plans that include specific plans for an active shooter scenario.

Schools that do not comply with the law could miss out on funding.

"Currently, the state does not have accurate figures on how many public schools have established school-safety plans that outline emergency steps that must be taken immediately should something horrible occur," Lieu said in a release. "As of last year, no district has ever been fined for failing to report a school that has not developed a school-safety plan ... As a result, too many schools either have no school safety plan or have failed to update or disseminate their plan.”

Among other requirements, the bill would mandate that public schools include a summary of their safety plan in annual school financial audits. A list of non-complying schools would be publicly available on the Department of Education's website.

Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg, who co-authored the bill, said that while some schools already have plans in place, all public schools in the state need to follow suit.

"The legislature has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure basic safety requirements are enforced in our schools," Steinberg said. "The safety of our children demands 100 percent compliance."

According to the school accountability report card, only 32.5 percent of public middle schools in Los Angeles had any type of emergency plan in 2009, the last time data was collected on the subject.  

Locally, the Palos Verdes Peninsula Unified School District already has safety plans in place, according to a letter posted Monday from Superintendent Walker Williams.

According to Williams, all public schools in Palos Verdes have established safety plans and students regularly participate in school-wide lockdown drills. The district also maintains an emergency communication system to help notify parents should an emergency occur.

Those very plans were put to the test last week when several Palos Verdes schools were forced to go on lockdown during a search for an armed robbery suspect.

"I want to ensure you that the district has systems and procedures in place to protect both students and staff as best we can," Williams said. "As you know, this past week we had to implement those procedures at several of our schools in response to police activity in the community... Our sites/staff responded with diligence."

Although no date has been set, the initial hearing for Lieu's school safety bill will most likely occur in the beginning of 2013.

"Given the recent massacre in Connecticut, and the lockdown of three schools in Palos Verdes Peninsula last week, the time is now to do what we can to protect our children,” Lieu said.

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