California Legislative Alert - Analysis

April 15, 2010 - San Francisco, CA - PipeLineNews.org - This report details two especially problematic pieces of California legislation.

AB 2478, Anthony Mendoza, (D-Norwalk) School Safety: Disruption: Pupil's Safety.

POSITION: OPPOSE.

Bill's intent: Amends existing law which provides that a person who comes into any school building or school ground, or adjacent street, sidewalk, or public way, whose presence or acts interfere with or disrupt a school activity, without lawful business, or who remains after having been asked to leave, is guilty of a public offense. Applies to any person [who] willingly creates a disruption with the intent to threaten the immediate physical safety of any pupil arriving at, attending, or leaving any preschool or school.

The author seeks to amend this law to include sending "threatening messages" so-called, to students, k-8, that might result in physical harm to these students.

There are severe penalties of $500.00 for a first offense and possibly jail time and a fine for subsequent offenses

BACKGROUND:

In 2008 the Center for Bio-Ethical Reforms, Directed by Gregg Cunningham, drove its highly identifiable truck, upon which is posted vivid photos of aborted babies, around the perimeter of a southern California middle school between 7:15 AM and 7:45 AM when the students were coming to school.

The author declared that students were so traumatized that they were placed in harm's way by stopping in the street to stare at the truck, crying and getting angry. The school called the local Sheriff's office to the campus with the request to remove this group from the vicinity of the school.

The Center for Bio-Ethical Reform countered with a lawsuit that went all the way to the Ninth Circuit Court which found in the defendant's favor based on the freedom of speech issue. However, the court made one loophole concession.

The Court declared that if the legislature were to pass a bill making it unlawful to distribute unsettling material on the sidewalk, campus, driveway of the school, etc. they would abide by that legislative action.

This bill was introduced on Feb 19, 2010. It passed the Public Safety Committee on a 6 to O vote including two Republicans, Danny Gilmore of Hanford and Curt Hagman of Chino Hills.

It awaits a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, chaired by Felipe Fuentes, (D) Connie Conway, (R-Visalia) V. Chair. Letterhead letters should be directed to Ms Conway, C/o Assembly Appropriations Committee, State Capitol, Sacramento. 95814.

OBJECTION: This is a deliberate attempt to silence the free speech rights of one segment of the community - pro life citizens - while the opponents - pro-abortion groups - receive full first amendment rights on and off campuses to distribute literature and products to students.

This bill would have the effect of making criminals out of anyone who, attempting to exercise his/her freedom of speech, should approach a student on the city street near a campus or hold up a pro life sign near a campus.

The Appropriations Committee only looks at bills for the costs to the state. So, this bill would increase the costs to local law enforcement groups and to the courts. The costs consisting of a misuse of the law enforcement people as they are called out to restrain the first amendment rights of law-abiding citizens, the costs of court and judge time not to mention citizens jury duty time when there are important and violent crimes to be dealt with.

Both Assembly members Hagman and Gilmore should receive calls and letters protesting their YES vote on this bill in the Public Safety Committee.

SB 438, Leland Yee, (D-SF) Charter Schools: Freedom of Speech and of the Press: Makes provisions of existing law regarding free speech and expressive activities of public school pupils applicable to charter school.

The subject is an attempt to protect the homosexual speech rights of students on Charter school campuses. This bill is related, in a way, to the previous bill. It attempts, in this instance, to silence Christian students in Charter Schools who would wish to respond to those students expressing support for what the Christian students would find offensive and immoral. At the same time this bill would allow and even encourage those students with homosexual interests to freely express their position in school newspapers and bulletin boards. It would also protect the teachers who allowed material offensive to one segment of the school - pro life students - from being called to account for lack of direction and counsel in this matter.

There are two problems here. Charter schools have been presented to the public as schools where parents have the authority to set standards for conduct as well as academics. While supported by tax dollars, the schools were to be considered independent of state education controls.

There are Charter schools developed by Christian families and there are Charter schools created by ACORN and PICO associated parental groups. Each group might well have a different standard for what constitutes acceptable and appropriate speech on the campus bulletin boards and newspapers. This bill is sponsored by the California Newspaper Publishers Association and by the American Civil Liberties Union.

This is a definite attempt to intervene in one type of Charter School to control the speech rights of students and to interfere with parental authority mandating that parents submit to the state on this issue while protecting speech rights in other Charter Schools

Senator Yee should receive letterhead letters as well as personal letters, opposing his bill for his attempts at denying freedom of speech. The Hon. Leland Yee, C/0 State Capitol, Sacramento, Ca 95814.

Note: We urge the use of letterhead stationery in these letters to legislators expressing dissent because only letters from organizations get printed along with the bill analysis. Letters from individuals are listed as merely, for example, 5 letters.

Legislators are required to send all correspondence received to the committee next in line to hear the bill.

2010 Camille Giglio. All rights reserved.