(Victor Valley)–This was a successful week for legislation authored by Assemblyman Steve Knight (R-Antelope Valley) who argued the merits of two measures that ultimately passed the Assembly with bi-partisan support. One would allow schools to have enforcement power in rejecting volunteers with certain criminal convictions on their records. Another would return college tuition paid by those in the military who are called to defend our country before they complete their coursework.
Assembly Bill 13 provides further protections for our students by placing the same restrictions on volunteers as are already in place for the hiring of school employees. Existing law states that if a person is convicted of specific sex crimes, controlled substance offenses or violent crimes, that they are prohibited from working for a school district.
“Schools are where our children are most vulnerable. As parents, we trust that our children are safe at school; we trust that the districts are doing everything they can to protect our children while they are in charge. Without this bill, there is no enforcement for schools that choose to fingerprint,”said Assemblyman Knight.
AB 13 places restrictions regarding the ability of a parent to volunteer for district activities (including in a child’s classroom, during recess or on field trips) if they have been convicted of a specified sex offense, controlled substance offense or violent crime specifically involving minors, if the school currently utilizes background checks on volunteers. This bill simply conforms the same rules that apply to those seeking employment with a school to those who wish to volunteer.
“It is incredible that under the law schools have the ability to check backgrounds, but have no enforcement component available to them,” continued Assemblyman Knight. “Assembly Bill 13 fixes that by ensuring people we wouldn’t trust with our children are not in our classrooms.”
The Palmdale Unified School District is the sponsor of Knight’s legislation. Sandy Lyons, a representative of Palmdale Unified and Mike Garrison, legal counsel to Palmdale Unified traveled to Sacramento to provide testimony on AB 13 at an Assembly Education Committee hearing.
“I think this was a wise decision on behalf of student safety by the Assembly Education Committee,”remarked Roger Gallizzi, Superintendent of Schools for Palmdale School District. Mr. Gallizzi originally approached Assemblyman Knight when he saw an increase in felons visiting his campuses. “We appreciate the hard work that Assemblyman Knight has done for his local community and constituents; this is what representative government is all about. I am sure we will see the bill successfully through other committees and the Senate.”
The other measure that passed the Assembly this week seeks to slightly change current law which provides servicemen and women a refund of tuition and fees paid for the academic term, only if the student withdraws before the withdrawal date established by the institution.
AB 636 will allow an active member of the military called to serve on deployment, to withdraw from a UC, CSU, or California Community College at any time, regardless of the withdrawal date set by the institution and be eligible for compensation.
“Servicemen and women are given no choice when they are called to duty, and often have a short time to prepare before leaving,” Knight stated. “If our brave men and women are given orders to report mid-term in their college career, they deserve a tuition refund so they can return to their education upon completion of deployment – it’s only right.”
Both measures will go to the Senate for consideration, and if approved, to the Governor where they will become law on January 1, 2012 if signed.