Members embrace Jones-Sawyer’s plan to ensure student safety with more intervention workers and mental health services
The Assembly Education Committee unanimously passed Reggie Jones-Sawyer’s bill Assembly Bill 549, requiring school districts better define the roles of mental health professionals, school resource officers and police on campus within their school safety plans.
AB 549 will require school districts within their school safety plans to better define the roles of mental health professionals, school resource officers and police on campus. It will also encourage school and school districts to emphasize that campus safety funds are used to hire more intervention workers, counselors, and other supportive mental health service providers.
Despite evidence that schools are the safest place for our children, the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut has ignited the need for action in communities across America. Across the state, school districts such as Los Angeles Unified School District, have responded to the very rational fears of parents by deploying more law enforcement officers on school campuses. Although they are an important part of overall community safety; they are not the only means of keeping schools safe and can actually have a counterproductive effect.
“The first step in ensuring our students are safe is creating and maintaining a positive school climate, where police are deemphasized and counseling intervention is magnified,” says Jones-Sawyer. Law enforcement officers are not the only means to keep students safe. They are one tool in our tool box, and in order to be successful we need to use the others.
To make learning environments safer, researchers from The California Endowment recommend that schools take actions to create connectedness and trust between children and adults.
“When students feel their problems are being heard they are less likely to resort to violence as a solution, here is where the increase in counselors and mental health professionals is essential,” says Jones-Sawyer.
Currently California has second worst student to counselor ration in the nation, one counselor for every 810 students.
Schools are currently required to develop school safety plan which includes strategies and programs that will provide a high level of school safety.
AB 549 encourages the increase in the presence of adults on campus as a technique in identifying student issues and preventing an escalation to violence.
Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, chair of the Public Safety Committee and member of the Education Committee describes Jones-Sawyer’s efforts as a “breath of fresh air,” in comparison to other approaches to increasing school safety.
After passing the Assembly Education Committee, AB 549 will be heard in the Assembly Committee on Appropriations.