Bill would restrict parents who are sex offenders on campus

Bill would restrict parents who are sex offenders on campus

(Calif.) School officials would be required to supervise parents or guardians registered as sex offenders when they are on campus, under a bill that passed the Senate education committee last week.

The panel also moved forward legislation that would require schools to report student access to visual and performing arts education on local control accountability plans.

The sex offender bill, SB 26, authored by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, would also limit the activities those on the registry can participate in, such as volunteering at a school.

“We know that registered sex offenders have a Constitutional right to be there in some circumstances to make educational decisions for their children–this bill does not change that,” Leyva told the committee during the hearing. “This bill closes loopholes in the current law so that our children are never placed in a situation where they are left alone with a registered sex offender while at school.”

Currently, school administrators can grant a registered sex offender access to a school campus as long as other parents and staff receive a two week notice. A parent on the registry can also volunteer at schools as long as they are not acting in a supervisory role or in constant interaction with children as part of their volunteering.

According to Leyva’s office, while there are some restrictions in place on the types of volunteering in which registered sex offenders may participate, there is enough ambiguity that someone on the registry could wind up unsupervised while interacting with students on campus.

Under SB 26, a parent on the sex offender registry would be allowed on school grounds specifically for purposes that relate to his or her right to make educational decisions for his or her child, such as attending a parent-teacher conference, or for any lawful purpose, including attending school events. In either case, that person must be supervised by a school employee.

The bill does, however, prohibit someone on the registry who has been convicted of a violent sexual offence from entering campus.

Opponents of the bill testified that it is rooted in fear, and does not provide evidence that there is a problem in the state of registered sex offenders going onto school campuses to attack kids. They also said the bill raises some potential Constitutional issues, and may even further stigmatize children whose parent is on the registry.

Senators Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, and Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, mentioned that they wanted to ensure that people who don’t need to be aren’t inadvertently caught up by this bill.

“This is about how we view sex crimes against children–some of the most vulnerable in our society,” Leyva responded. “I am aware that the registry is very broad, but this is not about someone who is a registered sex offender because they were in a park and exposed themselves.”

The list of crimes that would bar a parent from entering school grounds include forcible rape or sodomy; lewd and lascivious acts against a child under the age of 14; human trafficking; kidnapping with the intent to commit one of the aforementioned crimes; or a felony violation of knowingly distributing, sending, exhibiting or offering to distribute child pornography.

“Those are the folks we don’t want on campus with our children,” Leyva concluded. “If we protect just one child with this bill, we have done our job.”

SB 777–which would mandate that schools report any visual or performing arts classes offered on their LCAP— also would require the California Department of Education to establish professional development to assist school districts and county offices of education with offering arts instruction.

The state already requires K-12 students to receive arts education, and the Education Code also specifies that all students must complete one course in the arts or foreign language in high school in order to graduate.

Reporters at the Los Angeles Times found that in 2015, eight out of every 10 elementary schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District didn't have the programs needed to meet state art education requirements. And throughout the state, only 38 percent of students were enrolled in at least one art-related course, according to the California Arts Education Data Project.

Those who spoke in support of Allen’s bill said that while nearly everyone agrees that arts education provides important benefits for children, it is often not considered a priority when compared to core subjects such as math or English language arts–especially considering that schools must detail how to boost student achievement in those subjects on the LCAP.

“The enactment of the Local Control Funding Formula in 2013 provides school districts the opportunity to pursue arts education as a strategy to enhance student learning, improve school climate, and increase student and parent engagement,” Allen said during the committee meeting. “Providing disclosure about arts instruction on their local control accountability plans will empower local schools to offer all our students a good arts education.”