Teachers and the Law – Safety Concerns & Notification to Teachers About Students and Criminal History

Safety Concerns

An employee’s refusal to work in unsafe working conditions is protected activity under the Educational Employment Relations Act (EERA), where the safety concern is legitimate and reasonable, arises during the course of duties either necessary to the job or requested by the supervisor, and the refusal to work is limited to actual and reasonable safety concerns. Pleasant Valley School District (1988) PERB Decision No. 708.

An employee cannot be laid off or discharged, or otherwise not paid, for refusing to perform work in the performance of which the Labor Code, any occupational safety or health standard or any Labor Department safety order will be violated, where the violation would create a real and apparent hazard to the employee or his or her fellow employees. Labor Code 6311.

Notification to Teachers about Students and Criminal History

Notification to teacher; pupil who has engaged in acts constituting grounds for suspension or expulsion; civil or criminal liability; misdemeanor; fine; confidential information; application of section. Ed. Code 49079.

a) A school district shall inform the teacher of each pupil who has engaged in, or is reasonably suspected to have engaged in, any of the acts described in any of the subdivisions, except subdivision (h), of Section 48900. The district shall provide the information to the teacher based upon any records that the district maintains in its ordinary course of business, or receives from a law enforcement agency, regarding a pupil described in this section

b) No school district, or school district officer or employee, shall be civilly or criminally liable for providing information under this section unless it is proven that the information was false and that the district or district officer or employee knew that the information was false, or was made with a reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of the information provided.

c) An officer or employee of a school district who knowingly fails to provide information about a pupil who has engaged in, or who is reasonably suspected to have engaged in, the acts referred to in subdivision (a), is guilty of a misdemeanor, which is punishable by confinement in the county jail for a period not to exceed six months, or by a fine not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000), or both.

District Responsibility to Inform Teachers of Criminal History

A school district must inform any teacher, counselor or administrator in a supervisory or disciplinary position when, based on records maintained by the district or received from law enforcement, it has information that, during the three previous school years, a pupil has engaged in, or is reasonably suspected to have engaged in, the following criminal or disruptive conduct at school, while going to or from school, or during a school sponsored activity:

a)     Causing, attempting, or threatening physical injury to another;
b)      Possessing, selling, or otherwise furnishing, a firearm, knife, or other dangerous object;
c)      Possessing, using or selling illegal drugs, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia;
d)     Committing or attempting to commit robbery or extortion;
e)      Damaging or attempting to damage school property;
f)      Stealing or attempting to steal school or private property;
g)      Committing an obscene act or engaging in habitual profanity or vulgarity;
h)      Possessing, offering, arranging or negotiating to sell, any drug paraphernalia;<
i)      Disrupting school activities or otherwise willfully defying the valid authority of supervisors, teachers, administrators, school officials, or other school personnel engaged in the performance of their duties;
j)      Knowingly receiving stolen school or private property.

A district employee who knowingly fails to provide mandated information about a pupil is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail, or up to $1,000 fine or both.

Such information is confidential and shall not be further disseminated. Ed. Code 49079.

If a minor enrolled in a public school (grades K-12) is found by a court to have committed any felony or any misdemeanor involving curfew, gambling, alcohol, drugs, tobacco products, carrying of weapons, assault or battery, larceny, vandalism, or graffiti, the court must send written notice to the school superintendent within seven days. The information shall be expeditiously transmitted to any counselor who directly supervises the student and may be transmitted to any teacher or administrator with direct supervisorial or disciplinary responsibility over the minor who needs the information in order to work with the student, to avoid being needlessly vulnerable, or to protect other persons from needlessly vulnerability. Any information received by a teacher shall be received in confidence for the limited purpose of rehabilitating the minor and protecting students and staff and shall not be further disseminated except insofar as communication with the juvenile, his or her parents, probation officer, and law enforcement is necessary for these purposes. Welf. & Inst. Code 827 (b).

Each notice received from the court shall be kept in a confidential file at the student’s school, transferred to any subsequent school, and maintained until the student graduates from high school, is released from juvenile court jurisdiction, or reaches the age of 18. The record shall then be destroyed. Welf & Inst. Code 827(b).

Further, even short of conviction, when a petition is filed in juvenile court or a complaint is filed in any court alleging that a minor is using, selling or possessing drugs, the district attorney may provide written notice to the superintendent of the school district of attendance. Ed. Code 48909.

The superintendent or designee of the district where the minor is enrolled may inspect the minor’s juvenile court file and all documents contained therein. Welf. & Inst. Code 827(b).

A law enforcement agency may also release information to a school district relating to the taking into custody or conviction of a minor from crime(s) against the property, students or personnel of that district. Welf. & Inst. Code 828.3.

Additionally, the name of a minor 14 years of age or older, who has been found to be a ward of the court, may be disclosed to the public if the minor has committed a specified “serious” or “violent” felony. Welf. & Inst. Code 204.5.

A student or his/her parent or guardian must notify a school at the time of enrollment if the student was expelled previously from another school and must disclose the reason for the expulsion. Ed. Code 48915.1.

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