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Governor Signs Bill Creating More Inclusive Schools for LGBTQ Students

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Governor Newsom Signs Legislation to Create More Inclusive Schools and Expand K-12 Student Protections

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation on October 13 to expand protections to students in the state’s K-12 public schools.

“Creating a ‘California for All’ means ensuring schools are inclusive, accepting, and welcoming of all kids. These bills help move us closer to that goal,” said Governor Newsom.

Earlier this year, Napa County elementary school student Ryan Kyote called national attention to how kids at his school were shamed and singled out because of inadequate funds in their school lunch accounts.

He showed how at many schools across the country, students whose parents are not able to pay for their lunch are given a cheaper, “alternative” lunch that causes them to stick out from their peers. Governor Newsom met with Kyote earlier this year and committed to working on the issue.

SB 265 by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) outlaws that practice, ensuring all students receive a state reimbursable meal of their choice, even if their parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees. Specifically, the bill amends the Child Hunger Prevention and Fair Treatment Act of 2017 to require all local educational agencies, including school districts, county offices of education, and charter schools that provide free and reduced meals, to invalidate policies that call for a student whose parent or guardian has unpaid meal fees be given an alternative meal.

“I want to thank Ryan for his empathy and his courage in bringing awareness to this important issue,” added Governor Newsom.

In another vein, AB 493 by Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) asks the California Department of Education to develop resources to be used for in-service training for public school teachers and certified employees that will focus on supporting 7th through 12th grade lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ) students.

The bill is co-sponsored by Equality California and State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Tony Thurmond. It is backed by the California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, California State PTA and San Diego Unified School District, among others.

The training is to ensure teachers are better prepared and equipped to effectively intervene and assist LGBTQ students against verbal and/or physical harassment, which may impact their school performance and attendance.

Executive Director of Equality California, Rick Zbur, responded to the bill, “Today, Governor Newsom sent a loud and clear message to LGBTQ students across California that we have their backs,”  Zbur added, “The Safe and Supportive Schools Act will not only start a multi-year process to ensure that teachers and school staff have the tools and training they need to support our students, but it will put California on a path to serving as the gold standard for school climate.

“On behalf of the entire LGBTQ community, we are so grateful to Assemblymember Gloria and State Superintendent Thurmond for championing California values and fighting to help make our schools safe and supportive for every single student.”

Equality California believes today’s action shows that the State of California has furthered its commitment to protecting LGBTQ young people. The legislation will create safer and more supportive school environments for LGBTQ youth by encouraging school districts to provide teachers with information on resources available to support LGBTQ students and requires the California Department of Education to develop relevant training programs for teachers no later than July 1, 2021.

According to GLSEN’s 2017 National School Climate Survey, 82 percent of LGBTQ students reported hearing anti-LGBTQ remarks often or frequently in their school; approximately 7 in 10 reported being called names or threatened because of their sexual orientation; and more than one-third of students who identify as LGBTQ reported missing at least one day of school because of feeling unsafe.

“All too often, LGBTQ youth are bullied or harassed at school and do not feel like they have a place to turn. Some have chosen to end their own life because of it. This is an epidemic we must cure, and circumstances we should disrupt,” said Assemblymember Gloria. 

“The Governor’s signature on AB 493 represents a first step toward that goal. This is an important first step to improving the school environments for these vulnerable youth, and I look forward to working with the Governor and other stakeholders to build on this effort.”

A previous version of AB 493 would have required school districts to provide teachers and school staff with training and resources to better support LGBTQ students. The bill was amended to remove the requirement due to budget constraints, but Equality California will continue working with Assemblymember Gloria and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Thurmond to pass legislation requiring such training in 2020.

“I thank Governor Newsom and Assemblymember Gloria for their leadership in passing and signing AB 493, of which I’m a proud co-sponsor,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Thurmond. “LGBTQ students must have the same opportunities for a quality public education in an environment that accepts them for who they are. AB 493 will help California’s LGBTQ students by providing teachers the resources they need to support them, and closes disparities in health, mental health and academic outcomes.”

On the same day, Governor Newsom signed AB 982 by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) to require teachers in public and charter schools to provide homework assignments to the parent or guardian of a student that has been suspended for two or more schooldays, upon request.

This ensures the student does not fall behind on schoolwork or grades. Suspensions disproportionately affect students of color. While African American students account for only 5.8 percent of the state’s public school enrollment, they represented 17.8 percent of students who were suspended in 2018.

Other bills signed today include:

  • AB 577 by Assemblymember Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton) – Health care coverage: maternal mental health.
  • AB 819 by Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) – Foster care.
  • AB 947 by Assemblymember Sharon Quirk-Silva (D-Fullerton) – Visually impaired pupils: expanded core curriculum.
  • AB 1068 by Assemblymember Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) –Juveniles: dependency: child and family teams.
  • AB 1127 by Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-Arleta) – Interdistrict attendance: prohibition on transfers by a school district of residence.
  • AB 1219 by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles) – Teacher credentialing: certificated employee assignment monitoring.
  • AB 1240 by Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) – School accountability: local control and accountability plans: state priorities: pupil achievement.
  • AB 1729 by Assemblymember Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) – Pupils: attendance at community college.
  • SB 541 by Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) – School safety: lock-down drills and multi-option response drills: report.

Governor Newsom has taken several actions to benefit students and parents in his first nine months in office. In May, the Governor and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom launched the “Parents Agenda” as part of a broader affordability push to help address some of the cost of living issues faced by California parents. Under the “Parents Agenda,” the Governor signed a sales tax and use exemption for diapers and menstrual products, increased child care and increased the state Earned Income Tax Credit for kids under the age of six.

The Governor has also made historic investments in health care affordability and signed AB 1482 (Chiu) to establish a 5 percent annual rent cap, plus inflation, coupled with just-cause protections – the strongest renter protections in the nation. Additionally, the 2019 Budget Act included a Parents Agenda addressing specific cost-of-living issues faced by parents:

  • Expands paid family leave from six to eight weeks for each parent or caretaker of a newborn child, potentially allowing a child to benefit from as much as four months of paid family leave. This will bring California closer to the goal of six months of paid family leave, helping more workers, especially lower-wage workers, who pay into the system take the benefits
  • Puts California on the path to provide universal access to preschool for all four-year olds and full-day kindergarten, including funding for child care workers, expanding state-subsidized facilities and increasing slots
  • Provides resources for lower-income parents, including: home-visiting services, black infant health programs, developmental and trauma screenings, temporary cash assistance to families with children to meet basic needs, child savings accounts to support future higher education expenses and a sales tax exemption on diapers and menstrual products
  • Establishing or increasing Cal Grant Access Awards for student parents attending the University of California, California State University, or California Community Colleges. This two-generation approach will help students complete their education, increase their future earning potential, and provide additional support to their children.
  • Made highest-ever investment in K-14 education, including approximately $5,000 more per K-12 pupil than eight years ago
  • Invests $90 million to recruit and retain qualified educators to teach in a high-need field at priority schools and address California’s teacher shortage, and $43.8 million to provide training and resources for classroom teachers and paraprofessionals to build capacity around key state priorities
  • Supports students with specialized needs by providing a 19.3-percent increase in funding for special education.
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