New Education Laws
Part 1: California Laws Impacting Schools and School Districts for 2020
Last year brought many changes to the legal landscape affecting educators. In this Best Best & Krieger LLP Legal Alert series, we look at some of the most critical changes to the laws impacting schools and school districts. Below are the key developments in general education law to keep in mind as the second half of the 2019-2020 school year begins. All laws took effect Jan. 1 unless otherwise noted.
General Education Legislation
AB 272 Pupils: use of smartphones
A school board may adopt a policy to limit or prohibit students’ smartphone use while the pupils are at a schoolsite, or offsite during a school-supervised activity. Exceptions include an emergency, when given permission by a teacher or administrator, when a physician or surgeon determines it is necessary for the health or well-being of the student, or when required by a student’s IEP.
AB 413 Education: at-promise youth
The term “at-risk” is replaced with “at-promise” in various sections of the Education Code.
AB 543 Education: sexual harassment: written policy: posters
Each secondary schoolsite (grades 9-12), must have posters that are at least 8.5 by 11 inches, using 12-point or larger font, that notifies students of the school district’s sexual harassment policy. These posters must include reporting information, name, email and phone number of a school official, and the rights and responsibilities of the reporting student, complainant, respondent and the schoolsite. The posters must be displayed in each bathroom and locker room at the schoolsite.
AB 709 School districts: governing boards: pupil members
School districts maintaining one or more high schools, which are already required to appoint a student member to the governing board, will also be required to appoint the student board members to committees and to invite the student board member to other board functions. The student board member cannot be compensated for board service, but can receive elective credit.
AB 982 Pupils: homework assignments for suspended pupils
A pupil suspended for 2 or more schooldays, or that pupil’s parent or guardian, can request any missed homework from the suspension period. If that homework is turned in upon return from the suspension or within an alternative timeframe prescribed by the teacher, but it is not graded before the end of the academic term, the missed homework cannot be included in the calculation of the student’s grade.
AB 1127 Interdistrict attendance: prohibition on transfers by a school district of residence
A school district of residence is required to approve an intradistrict transfer request for a victim of an act of bullying (as defined). The school district of residence cannot prohibit the interdistrict transfer of a bullying victim if there is no available school for an intradistrict transfer and the school district of proposed enrollment approves the application for transfer.
SB 328 Pupil attendance: school start time
By July 1, 2022, or the date on which the collective bargaining agreement in effect on Jan. 1, 2020 expires, whichever is later, school start times for middle school students can be no earlier than 8 a.m. and school start times for high school students can be no earlier than 8:30 a.m.
SB 390 School safety: school security officers and security guards
Beginning July 1, 2021, all school security offers and security guards must complete a course of training developed by the Bureau of Security and Investigative Services of the Department of Consumer Affairs in consultation with the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training. School districts must provide that training course during regular work hours.
SB 419 Pupil discipline: suspensions: willful defiance
- Beginning July 1, 2020, a student enrolled in kindergarten or any of grades 1 to 8 cannot be suspended under Education Code 48900(k)(1) (disruption and willful defiance), except for a classroom suspension under Education Code 48910.
- Beginning July 1, 2020, no student can be recommended for expulsion for 48900(k)(1) violations.
SB 714 and SB 276 Immunizations: medical exemptions
- A child who has a medical exemption from mandated immunizations issued before Jan. 1, 2020 will be allowed to remain enrolled until the next grade span. However, on July 1, 2021, school districts are prohibited from allowing continued enrollment unless the pupil is immunized or has a medical exemption through a procedure that includes the completion of a compliant statewide form by certain physicians or surgeons.
- By Jan. 1, 2021, the State Department of Public Health will develop an electronic, standardized, statewide medical exemption request that would be transmitted using the California Immunization Registry, which would be the only valid medical exemption request. Also by Jan. 1, 2021, a parent or guardian will be required to submit to the Department a copy of a medical exemption granted prior to that date for inclusion in the state database for the medical exemption to remain valid. The new law also establishes an appeal procedure for denials or revocations.
The U.S. Education Department and the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services updated their Joint Guidance on the Application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 to Student Health Records on Dec. 19. The original guidance was first issued in November 2008.
Although the updated guidance focuses on student health information disclosure by postsecondary institutions and health care providers, it also addresses some privacy questions school districts should be aware of. In an answer to a frequently asked question, the agencies state in the Guidance that a district may disclose a student's health records to its law enforcement unit without parental consent if the disclosure falls under the "school officials" exception or "health or safety emergency" exception to FERPA's prior consent rule.
Additionally, the agencies confirm that law enforcement records created by a district's law enforcement unit are exempted from the definition of an education record and do not receive FERPA protections. Districts may, for example, send law enforcement records containing personally identifiable student information to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System and other third parties without parental consent as long as the disclosure meets state or local requirements, the agencies said in the guidance.
Next in this Series:
If you have any questions about these new laws or how they may impact your agency, please contact the authors of this Legal Alert listed to the right in the Education Law practice group, or your BB&K attorney.
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Disclaimer: BB&K Legal Alerts are not intended as legal advice. Additional facts or future developments may affect subjects contained herein. Seek the advice of an attorney before acting or relying upon any information in this communiqué.