Ensuring the safety and well-being of students and staff members while on a school campus is integral to student success. Everyone has a role to play in maintaining safe and secure learning environments, and new legislation, Senate Bill (SB) 906, aims to increase collaboration with law enforcement and reinforce the importance of safely storing firearms in the home. Visit the SDCOE School Safety webpage for additional information and resources.
Provided below is a brief overview of SB 906, considerations for districts/schools when addressing the new requirements, helpful definitions, and some answers to important questions about the legislation.
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SB 906 Overview and Requirements Important Definitions Implications and Considerations
FAQ Record Sharing References
Senate Bill 906
SB 906, most of which went into effect Jan. 1, 2023, has two important requirements for schools.
- Parent/Guardian Notification About California Laws on Safe Storage of Firearms: Starting in the 2023-24 school year (and effective July 1, 2023), local educational agencies (LEAs) are required to notify parents about California’s laws around storing firearms safely. Information from the Safe Storage of Firearms memo should be included in your LEA’s annual notification to parents and families. The memo can be found on the California Department of Education website or within the SDCOE Annual Notification template.
- Immediately Report Homicidal Threats to Law Enforcement: SB 906 requires a school official who is alerted to or observes any threat or perceived threat related to grades 6-12, to immediately report it to law enforcement. Law enforcement, with the support of the LEA, must immediately investigate the threat.
Threat or perceived threat means any writing or action of a pupil that creates a reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity. This may include possession, use, or depictions of firearms, ammunition, shootings, or targets in association with infliction of physical harm, destruction, or death in a social media post, journal, class note, or other media associated with the pupil. It may also include a warning by a parent, pupil, or other individual. The threat does NOT need to be firearm-specific, it must only be related to a homicidal act/thought.
As a general rule, LEAs should continue to follow their established threat assessment protocol when addressing a potential threat. When there is reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity, law enforcement should be contacted immediately rather than at the conclusion of the threat assessment process. Law enforcement will then work with the LEA to conduct the threat investigation. If school staff is unsure whether there is reasonable suspicion, reach out to the law enforcement partner that serves your school.
When two or more school officials jointly have an obligation to report the threat and when there is agreement among them, they may submit a single report. Law enforcement will keep a record of any reports received.
Law Enforcement Investigation
Once notified, law enforcement, with the support of the local educational agency, must immediately investigate. At this point, the school should share with law enforcement any information already gathered as part of its threat assessment. The report submitted to law enforcement must include copies of any documentary or other evidence associated with the threat or perceived threat. Information that can be shared with law enforcement is outlined in Record Sharing References.
The investigation and threat assessment should include a review of the firearm registry of the Department of Justice and, if justified by a reasonable suspicion that it would produce evidence related to the threat or perceived threat, a school site search, and/or search of student property. It does not include a search of the student’s person.
School official: Any certificated or classified employee of a local educational agency or member of the school district governing board, county board of education, or governing body of a charter school whose official duties bring the individual in contact with pupils in any of grades 6 to 12, inclusive, as part of a middle school or high school, on a regular basis.
Threat or perceived threat: Any writing or action of a pupil that creates a reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity. This may include possession, use, or depictions of firearms, ammunition, shootings, or targets in association with infliction of physical harm, destruction, or death in a social media post, journal, class note, or other media associated with the pupil. It may also include a warning by a parent, pupil, or other individual.
Homicidal act: While not expressly defined in SB 906, a homicidal act is generally defined in case law and statute as an act causing the death of another. More specifically, SB 906 focuses on the “threat of a homicidal act.”
Law enforcement: Can mean any of the following: (1) A peace officer employed or contracted by a school, school district, or local educational agency for school safety purposes.(2) A police or security department of a local educational agency. (3) A local law enforcement agency or agencies with geographic jurisdiction over a local educational agency.
Security department: SB 906 considers a school district security department as one separate from city and county law enforcement agencies and without general police powers. In the Education Code, “security department” is defined broadly to cover a variety of security options available to school district governing boards. Specifically, Education Code section 38000 et seq. provides two categories of school “security departments” that school boards may elect to use in their districts: (1) a school police department that serves under a chief of police or (2) a security department that serves under the direction of a chief of security or district superintendent.
Reasonable Suspicion: SB 906 required reporting of “any writing or action of a pupil that creates a reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity.” The reasonable suspicion standard is used often in assessing threats, but the term still remains difficult to implement. So, what is “reasonable suspicion” in the context of SB 906?
- “Reasonable suspicion” means someone has articulable facts about a situation
- The observer/reviewer of the threat can break it down in such a way that there is no doubt as to the validity of the threat’s content (not whether it’s a valid threat)
- Together with rational inferences from those facts
- Anyone looking at the facts shared would be able to come to the same conclusion based on the threat’s content, that is also reasonable and not unrealistic (i.e., juvenile wouldn’t have access to a rocket launcher but may have access to firearms)
- Warranting objective suspicion
- And based on the previous points, without external or internal (i.e. bias in favor of the student or against law enforcement) influences, would agree the activity/threat is suspicious
Potential Implications of SB 906
- Increased calls and response needed from law enforcement
- Increased law enforcement activity and student contact at schools
- Increased response by school officials during non-school hours
- Alteration to school-based threat assessment process
- De-emphasis on factors contributing to the threat and follow up care/services
Considerations Around SB 906
- Threats to campus safety can elicit heightened feelings of anxiety and fear in the school community. It is essential that each school has a prepared and collaborative threat assessment team who understands their role in evaluating and managing threats.
- The process of investigating a threat can be very difficult and stress-inducing for the students and families who are involved, particularly when law enforcement has been contacted. It is essential that both the school officials and law enforcement partners maintain a relationship focused on a trauma-informed approach when working directly with students and families to address a potential threat.
- Connect with the Special Education department to plan for the support that will be provided when a student with a disability is involved in a homicidal threat.
- Connect with the law enforcement partner that serves your school to plan for the reporting process when a school official becomes aware of potential threat.
- Understand that the response of law enforcement may differ depending on the nature of the threat, the volume of calls being addressed by law enforcement, and the experience of the responding officer. Schools should continue to take all steps outlined in the school threat protocol that are needed to maintain campus safety.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does this change the current threat assessment process or reporting, and if so, how?
Local educational agencies should continue to follow their established threat assessment protocol when addressing a potential threat. Law enforcement should be contacted immediately when there is reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity. Law enforcement will then work with the LEA to conduct the threat investigation.
Does this law change who I contact in law enforcement as part of our LEA’s threat assessment protocol?
No. LEAs are advised to follow their regular protocol for contacting law enforcement. The contact should be made immediately when there is reasonable suspicion that the pupil is preparing to commit a homicidal act related to school or a school activity. With the passage of SB 906, law enforcement has a significant role in the ongoing threat investigation.
The new law only applies to schools with grades 6 through 12. What about schools with grades TK through 5?
The directive to notify law enforcement immediately about a homicidal threat applies to only schools with grades 6 through 12; however, the directive to notify parents/guardians about laws around the safe storage of firearms applies to schools of all grade levels. All potential threats regardless of the grade of the student should be addressed using the school threat protocol.
Is this just related to guns?
No. While SB 906 is generally focused on guns and gun violence, the threat of homicidal act may reference not only possession, use or depictions of firearms, but also ammunition, shootings, or targets in association with infliction of physical harm, destruction, or death. Given the broad language added by the Legislature in Ed. Code section 49390 (e), the requirements of SB 906 likely could apply to threats involving weapons beyond guns, including bombs and any other weapons intended to cause physical harm, destruction, or death.
For Education Code 49393 subparagraph (c) what are agencies doing to “keep a record of any report received”?
SB 906 does not provide clear guidance on the best or the required method to “keep a record of any report received.” At a minimum, any report kept by the agency “shall include copies of any documentary or other evidence associated with the threat or perceived threat” in accordance with Education Code section 49393(c). Until further guidance is provided by the Legislature or the California Department of Education, we recommend that agencies follow their existing practices and procedures used for documenting student threats, including keeping a record of when schools have called law enforcement. We encourage school districts to work directly with their local law enforcement agencies to develop and/or refine reporting systems to ensure that the increased volume of threat reporting from SB 906 can be managed in an efficient and effective manner for each local community.
What is considered to be an investigation?
For the purposes of SB 906, an “investigation” must occur immediately after receiving the report and should include at a minimum: (1) a review of the firearm registry of the Department of Justice and (2) a search conducted at the school site, but only if the search is justified by a reasonable suspicion that the search would provide evidence related to the threat or perceived threat. The broad language in Education Code section 49394 around an “investigation” and “threat assessment” seems to provide broad flexibility to law enforcement and school districts to tailor the exact protocol for an investigation to the specific threat at issue, as long as the above minimum requirements are met.
With SB 906, does a school official still complete the School Threat Suspicious Activity Report (SAR)? Once the threat has been investigated and addressed using the school threat protocol, a school official should make a School Threat Suspicious Activity report to the San Diego Law Enforcement Coordination Center. If law enforcement was involved in the investigation, they should also complete a SAR report.
Record Sharing References: 34 CFR 99.31(a)(10), 99.32(a)(5); EC 49076(a)(2)(A)
Personally identifiable information may be disclosed to appropriate officials (i.e., law enforcement) if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or others. When information is disclosed, the LEA must record the following information:
- The articulate and significant threat that formed the basis for the disclosure, which is:
- Related to an actual, impending, or imminent emergency (campus shooting)
- Determined on a case-by-case basis
- Limited to the period of time of the emergency
- The parties to whom the LEA disclosed the information
34 CFR 00.36 Disclosure: emergencies
(a) An educational agency or institution may disclose personally identifiable information from an education record to appropriate parties, including parents of an eligible student, in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
(b) Nothing in this Act or this part shall prevent an educational agency or institution from –
(1) Including in the education records of a student appropriate information concerning disciplinary action taken against the student for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety or well-being of that student, other students, or other members of the school community;
(2) Disclosing appropriate information maintained under paragraph (b)(1) of this section to teachers and school officials within the agency or institution who the agency or institution has determined have legitimate educational interests in the behavior of the student; or
(3) Disclosing appropriate information maintained under paragraph (b)(1) of this section to teachers and school officials in other schools who have been determined to have legitimate educational interests in the behavior of the student.
(c) In making a determination under paragraph (a) of this section, an educational agency or institution may take into account the totality of the circumstances pertaining to a threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals. If the educational agency or institution determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals, it may disclose information from education records to any person whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. If, based on the information available at the time of the determination, there is a rational basis for the determination, the Department will not substitute its judgment for that of the educational agency or institution in evaluating the circumstances and making its determination.
Student who commits a crime: EC 48902
When reporting a crime committed by a student with a disability, the LEA must provide a copy of the student’s special education and disciplinary records to the authorities to whom the crime was reported. The disclosure is to ensure the authorities involved have knowledge necessary to appropriately interact and respond to students with a disability.
Improving School Safety Through Bystander Reporting: A Toolkit for Strengthening K-12 Reporting Progress (Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and United States Secret Service)
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