Monday, September 18, 2023
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‘Safe and Supportive Schools Act’ heads to California governor

The bill requires the state Department of Education to develop an online training and delivery platform that promotes LGBTQ+ inclusive classrooms.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — A bill that will establish LGBTQ+ inclusive online training curriculum for teachers is on its way to California Governor Gavin Newsom.

The state's Assembly on Monday passed Assembly Bill 5, called the “Safe and Supportive Schools Act,” in a 49-0 vote. The bill requires the state Department of Education to develop the online training and delivery platform by July 1, 2025. Local educational agencies would provide at least an hour of training each year to certificated staff starting with the 2025-26 school year through the 2029-30 year.

The training would serve students in grades 7 through 12.

The bill’s author — Assemblyman Rick Chavez Zbur, a Hollywood Democrat — has said it’s meant to give teachers and staff professional development opportunities that will help foster inclusive classroom environments for all students, including those who identify as LGBTQ+.

Several citizens spoke against the bill during a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing last month.

A representative with the state’s Department of Finance also opposed the bill at the hearing. A bill analysis estimated a cost of $1.3 million to create the portal needed to monitor compliance with the training requirements. Almost $490,000 was estimated for ongoing costs. Possible reimbursement to school districts for the required training could reach $7.8 million.

On Monday, the Assembly agreed to amendments to the bill made by the Senate. Those include the removal of a requirement that schools must post information on their websites about how many employees finished the training. Instead, schools must document the date employees finish the training and name who provided it.

Additionally, schools must maintain public records regarding the training and provide them to the Education Department when requested.

According to the bill analysis, research shows that LGBTQ+ students feel safer at school, miss fewer classes, get better grades and experience fewer school-related issues when they have supportive educators. Schools with gay-straight alliance clubs report less harassment, and students are more likely to report it when it does happen.

A former director of Equality California, Zbur last month made a statement in the wake of what he called ongoing attacks against the LGBTQ+ community, in which he mentioned the Chino Valley Unified School District.

That district in July voted on a policy that will have parents and guardians informed if their child is involved in violence, shows suicidal ideation or asks to be identified by something other than their gender at birth.

Attorney General Rob Bonta in August announced he was suing the school district over the policy.

“We will stand our ground and protect our children with all we can because we are not breaking the law,” said Sonja Shaw, district board president, at the time. “Parents have a constitutional right in the upbringing of their children. Period. Bring it.”

A judge this month issued a temporary restraining order stopping the school district from implementing that policy. A hearing on the issue is expected in October.

Bonta’s office has argued the policy discriminates against transgender and nonconforming students, saying it targets students who use names or pronouns that are different from their birth certificates, in violation of the state’s equal protection clause, and that it also violates privacy rights.

Categories / Education, Government, Law

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