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Lieu Reintroduces School Safety Bill

The bill would require all public schools to have well defined safety plans for emergencies. Read what Hermosa Beach schools did in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting.

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 two schools in the Hermosa Beach City School District, Hermosa Valley and Hermosa View, regularly practice school-wide drills, including earthquake, fire and lockdown drills. Drills are held according to a schedule with unannounced ones held periodically, said Superintendent Patricia Escalante. The last lockdown drill was held on Dec. 4.

Last Friday within an hour news about the Sandy Hook shooting, Hermosa Beach Police officers went to each school to make sure sites were secure, she said. Psychological resources were also made available.

"The district and city officials have been in constant contact over this past week and police have been at each school every day to interact with parents and children and to provide support," she wrote via email.

The district also can instantly notify parents of an emergency via phone, text, email by Smartphone or any electronic device, she said.

In January, Interim Police Chief Steve Johnson will participate in a school safety discussion at a district board meeting.

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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