California Senate Bill 596, an act to amend Section 44811 of the Education Code related to school employees, was introduced by Senator Portantino on February 15, 2023, and most recently updated in July 2023.
The legislation is intended to protect school employees from any parent, guardian, or other person whose conduct "materially disrupts" classwork or extracurricular activities, or involves "substantial disorder".
This bill specifies that “substantial disorder” includes substantial disorder at any meeting of the governing board of a school district, the governing body of a charter school, a county board of education, or the State Board of Education.
If an adult is found guilty of causing "substantial disorder" they would be charged with a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not less than $500, nor more than $1,000, and/or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year. A second offense would carry a mandatory 10 days in county jail, and a third offense, a minimum 90 days in county jail.
Furthermore, any adult who subjects a school employee to "threats" or "harassment" or who makes a credible threat against a school employee or the school employee's family that is related to the school employee's course of duties, including instruction, would also be guilty of a misdemeanor under this proposed legislation.
“Harassment” means unlawful violence, a credible threat of violence, or a knowing and willful course of conduct directed at a specific person that seriously alarms, annoys, or harasses, torments, or terrorizes the person. The course of conduct must be that which would cause "a reasonable person" to suffer substantial emotional distress, and actually results in substantial emotional distress to the person.
“Credible threat” means a verbal, written, or electronic communication, a communication implied by a pattern of conduct, or a combination of behavior made with the specific intent to place a targeted person in reasonable fear for their safety or the safety of their family. A credible threat does not require the individual making the communication to actually carry out the act.
This proposed legislation basically means that parents who speak out against pornographic library books or radical gender ideology, for instance, could be charged with a misdemeanor if they "annoy" or "torment" a school employee.
Can you imagine what would have happened if this proposed legislation had been in place before the days of covid? Think about how many parents protested the unscientific and dangerous masking mandates forced upon children in school. Remember that fiery speech by Attorney Leigh Dundas at the Orange County Board of Education meeting? Could she, and others who pushed back against horrific covid policies, have been charged with a misdemeanor under this proposed legislation?
Pay attention, Connecticut.
You know that Connecticut legislators often look to other progressive states like California for ideas.
If this passes in California, it would not at all be surprising to see something similar proposed in Connecticut during the next legislative session.