School Safety, Discipline and Responsibilities

School District Responsibility

While every teacher has a general duty to maintain custody and control over their students, school districts have the legal responsibility to establish and enforce the discipline policy which circumscribes teachers’ supervisory efforts.

This means that Board members and administrators are responsible for general school administration, including enforcement of the school district’s discipline policy. 5 Cal. Code Reg. 5551.

School Safety Plan

In order to prevent campus crime and violence and to promote safe educational conditions, each school district shall adopt a “School Safety Plan.” Ed. Code 35294.

A “School Safety Plan” may include the following:

  • An assessment of the current status of crime committed on school campuses and at school related functions;
  • Appropriate strategies that will provide or maintain a high level of school safety;
  • An action plan, in conjunction with law enforcement authorities, for implementing appropriate safety strategies and programs and determining their fiscal effects;
  • A dress code to prohibit wearing “gang related apparel.”

Safe Schools Assessment

Effective July 1, 1995, semi-annually, each school must report to the county superintendent all crimes committed on school grounds. Each county superintendent must compile the data and submit it to the state department of education. The SDE shall make available a summary of the aggregated data, shall identify trends in school crime and evaluate school crime prevention programs by comparing the numbers and rates of crimes for each year against those of previous years. Penal Code 628.1, et. seq; Title 5 section 700-705.

Discipline Policy

Additionally, each school must adopt rules and procedures on student discipline.

After soliciting the views of parents, teachers, school administrators, school security personnel, and junior and senior high school pupils, the rules shall be adopted by a panel consisting of the school principal and a teacher at the beginning of the school year. It is the duty of each employee to enforce these rules and procedures. Ed. Code 35291, 35291.5.

All certified personnel, but particularly administrators, are responsible for student supervision and enforcement of a school district’s safe schools plan and student discipline policy. California administrative regulations mandate that all certificated personnel “exercise careful supervision over the moral conditions in their respective schools.” 5 Cal. Code Reg. 5530. Their supervisory responsibilities also include extracurricular activities. 5 Cal. Code Reg. 5531.

School principals have explicit responsibility for the general administration and supervision of their school. 5 Cal. Cod Reg. 5551. This duty includes enforcement of discipline policy. Principals’ direct supervisory responsibilities explicitly include:

  • Playground supervision. 5 Cal. Code Reg. 5552.
  • Dissemination of the district’s student discipline policy to all employees and all students. 5 Cal. Code Reg. 5552.

Provide a Safe Workplace

The “Victims’ Bill of Rights” initiative in part added the following to the California Constitution:

“All students and staff of public primary, elementary, junior high and senior high schools have the inalienable right to attend campuses which are safe, secure and peaceful.” Cal. Const. Art. I, Sec. 28(c).

Every employer is required to furnish employment and a place of employment which is safe and healthful for the employees therein.  LABOR CODE 6400.

Every employer is required to furnish and use safety devices and safeguards, and to adopt and use practices, means, methods, operations and processes which are reason-ably adequate to render such employment and place of employment safe and healthful. Every employer shall do every other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety and health of employees. LABOR CODE 6401.

“Safe,” “safety,” and “health”… mean such freedom from danger to the life, safety, or health of employees as the nature of the employment reasonably permits. LABOR CODE 6306(a).

“Safety device,” and “safeguard” shall be given a broad interpretation so as to include any practicable method of mitigating or preventing a specific danger. LABOR CODE 6306(b).

To enforce these provisions, teachers can purchase necessary safety devices and compel the district to reimburse them. Oakland Police Officers Assn. v. City of Oakland (1973) 30 Cal.App.3d 96 [106 Cal.Rptr.134]. Also, teachers can file a complaint with Cal-OSHA to compel the District to furnish such equipment, to implement safety procedures, and to “do every other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, safety, and health of employees.” Sacramento County Deputy Sheriffs Assn. v. County of Sacramento (1990) 220 Cal.App.3d 280, 285-286 [269 Cal.Rptr.6].

“An employer’s statutory duty under the Labor Code is greater than a duty of care imposed pursuant to common law principles.” The duty “is not predicated on a finding that a particular injury is foreseeable.” Bonner v. W.C.A.B. (1990) 225 Cal.App.3d 12023, 1034 [275 Cal.Rptr. 337].

The duty of an employer to its employees is similar to or greater than that of a land owner to a business invitee: “to take affirmative action to control the wrongful acts of third persons which threaten invitees where the occupant has reasonable cause to anticipate such acts and the probability of injury resulting therefrom.” Taylor v. Centennial Bowl (1966) 65 Cal.2d 114, 121 [52 Cal.Rptr. 561]. This includes a duty to take adequate security precautions. See, e.g., Cohen v. Southland Corp. (1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 130,144 [203 Cal.Rptr. 572].

Injury Prevention Program

A school district shall establish, implement, and maintain an effective injury prevention program. The program shall be written and shall include at least the following:

  • The person or persons responsible for implementing the program.
  • A system for identifying and evaluating workplace hazards, including periodic inspections to identify unsafe conditions and work practices.
  • Methods and procedures for correcting unsafe or unhealthy conditions and work practices in a timely manner.
  • An occupational health and safety training program designed to instruct employees in safe and healthy work practices and to provide instruction with respect to hazards specific to each employee’s job assignment.

The district shall train all employees when the training program is first established, all new employees, and all employees given new job assignments, whenever any new substances, processes, procedures or equipment are introduced to the workplace and represent a new hazard, and whenever the employer receives notification of a new or previously unrecognized hazard.

  • A system for communicating with employees on occupational health and safety matters, including provisions designed to encourage reporting of hazards without fear of reprisal.
  • A system for ensuring that employees comply with safe and healthy work practices.
  • The school district shall correct unsafe and unhealthy conditions and work practices in a timely manner.

The employer’s injury prevention program may include an employer and employee occupational safety and health committee with the following minimum duties:

  • Review of employer’s periodic, scheduled worksite inspections; investigation of causes of incidents resulting in injury, illness, or exposure to hazardous substances; and investigation of any alleged hazardous condition brought to the attention of any committee member. When determined necessary by the committee, the committee may conduct its own inspections and investigations.
  • Verification of abatement action taken by the employer.

Procedures for selecting employee representatives for employer-employee   occupational health and safety committees may be specified in the collective bargaining agreement. No employee or employee organization shall be held liable for any act or omission in connection with a health and safety committee. LABOR CODE 6401-7.


CAL/OSHA Guidelines for Workplace Security

A Type II workplace violence event involves an assault by someone who is either the recipient or the object of a service provided by the affected workplace or the victim. Type II events involve fatal or nonfatal injuries to individuals who provide services to the public. These events involve assaults on public safety and correctional personnel, municipal bus or railway drivers, health care and social service providers, teachers, sales personnel, and other public or private sector employees who provide professional, public safety, administrative or business services to the public.

Of increasing concern are Type II events involving assaults to the following types of service providers: teaching, administrative and support staff in schools where students have a history of violent behavior.

Unlike Type I events which often represent irregular occurrences in the life of any particular at-risk establishment, Type II events occur on a daily basis in many service establishments, and therefore, represent a more pervasive risk for many service providers.

Preventive Measures

1) Initial Assessment

Many workplaces are at risk for workplace violence, but certain workplaces are recognized to be at significantly greater risk than others. Therefore, every employer should perform an initial assessment to identify workplace security factors which have been shown to contribute to the risk of violence in the workplace. If you have one or more of the following factors present in your workplace, you should consider your workplace to be a potential risk of violence:

  • Working with patients, clients, passengers, customers or students known or suspected to have a history of violence; or
  • Employees with a history of assaults or who have exhibited belligerent, intimidating or threatening behavior to others.

2) Preventive Strategies for Type II Events

An increasing number of fatal, non-fatal assaults and threats involve an employee who is providing a service to a client, patient, customer, passenger or other type of service recipient.

Employers who provide service to recipients, or service “objects,” known or suspected to have a history of violence must also integrate an effective workplace security component into their injury prevention program. An important component of a workplace security program for employers at risk for Type II events is supervisor and employee training in how to effectively defuse hostile situations involving their clients, patients, customers, passengers and members of the general public to whom they must provide services.

Employers concerned with Type II events need to be aware that the control of physical access through workplace design is also an important preventive measure. This can include controlling access into and out of the workplace and freedom of movement within the workplace, in addition to placing barriers between clients and service providers. Escape routes can also be a critical component of workplace design. In certain situations, the installation of alarm systems or “panic buttons” may be an appropriate back-up measure. Establishing a “buddy” system to be used in specified emergency situations is often advisable as well. The presence of security personnel should also be considered where appropriate.

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