An online newsletter produced by EdSource
with support from The California Endowment 


Oct. 3, 2014 Issue 20
Legislative Update

Brown vetoes key bill to track student absences
 Photo credit: Lillian Mongeau/ EdSource Today
Student attendance reflects student health -- physical, emotional and behavioral -- and the health of their families, too. Attorney General Kamala Harris has declared chronic absenteeism an urgent problem affecting student achievement, dropout rates and crime, but Gov. Jerry Brown this week vetoed the most substantive of the five attendance bills she sponsored to address the issue.
Brown also vetoed a second attendance bill in Harris' package, signed two of the smaller attendance bills and the fifth stalled in committee.

Brown vetoed:

  • Assembly Bill 1866, by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Los Angeles, which would have made it easier for districts to track students who are missing 10 percent or more of school days by adding additional attendance reports to the state data system, the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System. Proponents said the data system would have helped schools identify chronically absent students in order to provide medical or emotional supports to get them back to school. The Legislature is requiring that districts set goals to address truancy and chronic absenteeism in their Local Control and Accountability Plans, but Brown, in his veto message, wrote, "While well intentioned, the collection of data for the interest of faraway authorities would not get to the root of the issue -- keeping kids in school and on track."
  • Assembly Bill 1672, by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, which would have required annual reports on absence and truancy rates, district attorney referrals and intervention outcomes from School Attendance Review Boards. These boards are composed of school and community members who meet regularly to resolve troublesome attendance and behavior issues. In his veto message, Brown said districts already have the ability to gather the data, and the bill would have imposed an unnecessary reporting burden.

Brown signed Assembly Bill 1643, by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, which adds a representative of the county district attorney's office and the county public defender's office to School Attendance Review Boards, and Assembly Bill 2141, by Assemblyman Isadore Hall III, D-Compton, which requires prosecutors to report to districts the outcome of mediation or prosecution.


 Browned signed several other bills related to children's health. (See below.)  


"A big part of chronic absenteeism has to do with health care," said Tom Torlakson, state superintendent of public instruction, in an interview this week at EdSource. He noted some positive news this week -- in the last 12 months, 1.2 million Californians enrolled in health insurance, including dental coverage, under the federal Affordable Care Act and nearly 2 million Californians enrolled in Medi-Cal, the state's form of Medicaid.   


Read more coverage of student-related bills at EdSource Today. 

How schools prevent and address behavioral conflicts is central to student achievement,  drop-out rates and overall school climate, which is defined as the degree to which students and staff feel engaged, supported and respected, according to the National School Climate Center, a New York-based nonprofit organization.

This week brought new evidence of a growing commitment on the part of the state to find more positive approaches to disciplining students, according to reform advocates. Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 420, which eliminates "willful defiance" or disruption of school activities as a reason to expel students. It also prevents administrators from using that reason to issue suspensions to K-3 students.

The willful defiance category has come under fire because it has been disproportionately used statewide to discipline African-American students and, in some districts, Latino students. In 2012-13, African-Americans made up about 6 percent of total enrollment, but 19 percent of suspensions for defiance. Read more at EdSource Today.


New student health services and protections will be underway in schools, as Gov. Jerry Brown signed the following bills into law this week: 


  • Senate Bill 1266, by Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, which requires schools to stock emergency epinephrine auto-injectors, commonly known as EpiPens, to address sudden allergic reactions.  
  • Senate Bill 1172, by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, which adds near-vision screening to early elementary school vision screenings. The intent is to identify students who are trying to learn to read but need eyeglasses.
  • Assembly Bill 1432, by Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, which requires school employees to complete annual online training in how to recognize and report suspected child abuse and neglect. Gatto said the training is intended to remind school employees that they must report suspected abuse even if it involves their co-workers.
School Climate

With districts working this fall to put into action their first locally created school accountability plans -- which for the first time are to include measures of student behavior and feelings of belonging -- the California Department of Education rolled out a new online resource center this week designed to help schools improve.


The Quality Schooling Framework is intended to guide administrators through the process of identifying priorities, gathering data, building support, and implementing and assessing new programs. The framework includes videos on Developing Effective School and District PlansAnalyzing Data and Assessing Local Needs, Leading Change and Engaging Stakeholders.


The framework devotes considerable attention to school culture and climate, and notes that "the school environment, like family and community environments, has either a powerful positive or negative effect on whether students learn and thrive."


Read more at EdSource Today. 

Webinars: "Toxic Stress" and "Social Inclusion"

Oct. 9: Toxic stress and children's mental health in California  
Oct. 8: Creating schools where everyone belongs 


Children Now, the Oakland-based nonprofit organization, will host a presentation on children's mental health with speakers from  the Center For Youth Wellness and Californians for Safety and Justice. The Center is a San Francisco health clinic founded by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a leading researcher on stress. Californians for Safety and Justice is an Oakland nonprofit organization focused on justice system reform.  


Half of all mental health disorders start by age 14 and, in any given year, up to 20 percent of U.S. children have mental health problems, Children Now said, noting that this translates into about 1.8 million California children who suffer from mental health problems each year.


Thursday, Oct. 9, "How toxic stress impacts California's children, families and communities," 11:00 a.m. to 12 p.m. PT. To register, click here



The National Association of Secondary School Principals will host a presentation about how school principals can be leaders in creating and sustaining a culture of "social inclusion," where all students and families feel welcome. 


A focus on inclusion can be used to build student engagement and leadership, prevent bullying, improve school safety and involve parents, the association said.  


Among the presenters are Terry Pickeral, a senior education consultant for the Special Olympics' Project Unify in Washington, a program that develops youth leaders to create schools where all students are "agents of change" and foster respect for students with intellectual disabilities.  


Wednesday, Oct. 8, "Social inclusion: An opportunity for principal leadership," 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. PT. To register, click here


Recent Editions of the EdHealth Newsletter:

EdHealth Newsletter Issue 19: Will kids eat more school lunches in quiet cafeterias?
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 18: California ahead in abolishing harsh discipline policies
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 17: Measuring social and emotional factors for accountability
EdHealth Newsletter Issue 16: Vaccination opt-outs rise as school nurses try to educate
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