Policymakers target teacher and security personnel training

Policymakers target teacher and security personnel training

(Calif.) Bills creating new training requirements for teachers and school security guards, increasing funding for mental health services, and pushing for a new statewide longitudinal database were among the flurry that moved forward in recent days.

AB 493 would require online training every two years for middle and high school teachers relating to local resources available to support LGBTQ students, as well as strategies to increase overall support educators can provide students who may be facing a lack of acceptance at home and in school.

That bill was unanimously approved by the Assembly on Tuesday.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria, D-San Diego, author of AB 493, said the bill will better equip teachers to create positive learning environments where today’s LGBTQ youth wouldn’t face the same bullying and harassment he had experienced in school.

“Teachers and staff are on the front lines,” Gloria, who also serves as vice-chair of the California Legislative LGBT Caucus, said in a statement. “Training them to know the signs and how they can be more supportive of LGBTQ students can make all the difference. Our schools should be safe and inclusive places focused on the growth and success of all students.”

More than 80 percent of LGBTQ students reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks in their school, according to the 2017 National School Climate Survey. About 70 percent of students reported being called names or threatened because of their sexual orientation, and more than 30 percent of students who identify as LGBTQ reported missing at least one day of school because of feeling unsafe.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond expressed support for AB 493, noting in a statement that we wants to “prioritize curriculum and school environments that teach tolerance, acceptance, and promote diversity.”

SB 390, authored by Sen. Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, also passed a floor vote unanimously. The bill would require all security guards working on K-12 and community college campuses to complete the most recently updated training available. Districts must provide the training during regular work hours.

Currently, only security guards working on school grounds more than 20 hours per week must complete a single training, and statute does not require local education agencies to provide the training.

According to Umberg’s office, about half of the state’s school security employees are part-time, severely limiting the number of those with up-to-date training “in all aspects of the law and the evolving needs of the student population.”

A third bill–SB 582, authored by Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose–would boost mental health partnerships that support prevention, early intervention, and direct services to children.

Specifically, the bill requires the state’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission to allocate at least half of grant funds to such programs, and would annually appropriate $15 million each fiscal year to the commission for the purpose of grants.

Meanwhile, AB 1466 calls on the governor to convene a statewide longitudinal database taskforce that would develop recommendations to establish a more efficient statewide database to collect and store student data as children move from early education and into the workforce.

According to a report released last year by the Public Policy Institute of California, the state’s current education data systems are fragmented, preventing state and local policymakers from being able to answer even the most basic questions about whether or not financial investments are paying off or if the programs are effective.

One issue in the existing California Longitudinal Pupil Assessment and Data System, or CalPADS, was that the system wasn’t linked to any of the major databases maintained by other state agencies that also have important responsibilities over child welfare and education, researchers found.

Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks and author of AB 1466, said her bill is vital to ensuring policy decisions are based on the whole picture.

“Without complete and meaningful data, decision-makers at the state, local, and campus levels are each left with only a fraction of a student’s journey,” Irwin said in a statement. “With nearly 10 million students attending primary, secondary, or undergraduate institutions in California, it is imperative that we remove the barriers between these silos of information.”

Irwin’s bill is almost identical to SB 2 by state Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, which passed without dissent in the Senate on Tuesday and is now pending in the Assembly.

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