Assemblymember Joan Buchanan (D-Alamo), chair of the Assembly Education Committee announced the introduction of two pieces of legislation designed to protect and ensure the safety of children. Assembly Bill 375 focuses on teacher discipline and dismissal, Assembly Bill 1338 covers mandated reporting of child and sexual abuse.
"Our children are our future. It is critically important that they attend schools that are safe and where all adults who work with them understand their responsibilities to keep them safe," Buchanan said. "We have been debating these issues long enough and have too many examples of where the current system has broken down."
AB 375 streamlines the appeal process for teacher dismissal, resulting in faster resolution and significant cost savings to school districts. In cases of child and sexual abuse, AB 375 maintains the ability of school districts to immediately remove the teacher from the classroom as well as the ability to issue a notice of dismissal at any time during the calendar year
The assemblywoman caught flack last year when she voted against a bill that could have let school districts fire teachers who commit sexual or drug-related acts with children. Buchanan has defended herself regarding her vote; she explained that the bill was flawed, and said district already have ways of ousting an employee involved in physical, sexual or drug-related child abuse.
Regarding old discipline and dismissal procedures, Buchanan told members of the Contra Costa Council, "it just takes too long and costs too much money."
"The focus of our bill is going to be cleaning up the part of the statute that needs cleaning," she said. "You want to preserve the intent, but you want to update it."
AB 1338 requires all school districts to have a board policy on their child abuse reporting responsibilities and to review that policy with all employees annually. The bill is in response to recent incidents in which school district employees failed to report incidents of child or sexual abuse, which allowed the abuse to continue for extended periods of time.
"These bills reflect all that I learned while serving on our local school board for almost two decades and extensive meetings with members of the education community parents, teachers, and administrators." Buchanan said. "I look forward to continuing the dialogue and working with my colleagues and the education community to pass these important bills."
Buchanan also plans to submit a bill on teacher evaluation later this month. The bill will establish a professional improvement evaluation system to increase the capacity and effectiveness of teachers through an evaluation process that is based on the California standards for the teaching profession.
"If you're a teacher, you give a test not only for a grade, but to see what students have learned," she told the Council in February.