Assembly Education Committee Meets Tomorrow

The Assembly Education Committee meets tomorrow at 1pm to vote on several bills and hold a hearing on a WASB-initiated bill on suspension/expulsion of a pupil relating to firearm possession.

Assembly Bill 496 provides local discretion to suspend or begin expulsion proceedings under specific circumstances in which a student brings a firearm onto school grounds.

Under current law, if a student is found in possession of a firearm on school grounds , the student must be suspended, the school must initiate the expulsion process, and, unless the school board exercises case-by-case discretion in connection with an expulsion hearing, the student must be expelled for a period of at least one year.

These mandatory suspension and expulsion proceedings can be very stressful and hard on the student and family in situations where the administration, in reliance on the school board’s adopted student code of conduct, would not have initiated the expulsion process if the administration and law enforcement determined that the possession of the firearm on school grounds was a mistake and that the health and safety of the pupil and/or others was not put at risk. It is also an unneeded drain on school district resources when there is no intention to follow through on expulsion.

This bill proposes to amend the statutes that govern school discipline to ensure that the local school board is not required to (but also is not prohibited from) beginning the expulsion process in a situation involving a hunting firearm (rifle or shotgun) if either of two exceptions apply:

  1. A firearm that is lawfully stored inside a locked vehicle on school property; or
  2. The possession of a firearm for an activity approved and authorized by the school board if the school board adopts appropriate safeguards to ensure pupil safety.  This exception will ensure that the statutes requiring mandatory disciplinary proceedings are not interpreted to apply to school-sponsored activities, such as hunter safety courses or high school trap-shooting leagues.

This bill mirrors the applicable federal law that otherwise mandates the initiation of disciplinary proceedings, as the federal law grants the above referenced exemptions. [20 U.S. Code § 7961]

The WASB will be testifying in support along with district administrators who have had situations related to this issue in their school districts.

This is a local control bill.  Local school officials and law enforcement best know the pupil and the situation. Local school administrators can best make decisions related to suspension and expulsion rather than a blanket state law.

The Committee is also scheduled to vote on whether to recommend the following bills to the full Assembly:

  • Assembly Bill 159
    Relating to: policies regulating the use of electronic smoking devices on school
    district property.
  • Assembly Bill 221
    Relating to: creating a pilot program under which certain school districts are not
    required to provide a minimum number of hours of direct pupil instruction.
  • Assembly Bill 398
    Relating to: summer school and interim session classes.