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Bills on Student Sexting and Cyberbullying, Pre-K Programs, Theater/Dance Teaching Advance

May 2, 2016

On April 20, the Assembly Committee on Education approved AB 2536, authored by Assemblymember Ed Chau (D-Monterey Park), which clarifies that sexting, with the purpose or effect of humiliating or harassing a pupil, is a part of cyberbullying and incorporates sexting curriculum as a part of comprehensive sex education programs.

“Many teens who consider sexting normal are not only at risk of facing serious legal consequences, but are also subject to acts of bullying or harassment when their intimate images are taken without their knowledge or disseminated without their consent," said Assemblymember Chau. “This presents a complex challenge to schools as they strive to provide safe environments for learning.”

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a recent survey found that 20 percent of teenage boys and girls have sent a sext message. Sending sexually explicit photographs, videos or messages via cell phone or instant messenger has real dangers and consequences, because it is nearly impossible to control the flow of digital information once it leaves a person’s mobile device. With the click of a button an image can be sent out to hundreds of people. In California, sending sexual images of minors is specifically prohibited under Penal Code Section 311.11. Some states have begun prosecuting teenagers who sext under state child pornography laws. Last year, three Connecticut high school students were arrested and charged for participating in a sexting ring that sold sexually explicit images and videos of other students. Unfortunately, some teenagers have committed suicide because of the effect of sexting. In 2010, a thirteen-year old Florida teen committed suicide after a photo she had sent to her boyfriend was later disseminated to students at six different schools in the area by another female student. In 2012, a fifteen-year old California teen committed suicide after she was sexually assaulted by three teenage boys who took photos of the incident then texted, emailed, and posted those photos on social media.

California public schools already provide sex education programs to students, and adding curriculum about the risks of sexting, including the social, academic, and legal consequences related to the behavior, is arguably a logical addition to current sex education programs.

“Sexting needs to be part of a comprehensive sex education program, but egregious acts should also be coupled with appropriate forms of discipline for causing irreparable harm to another student,” concluded Assemblymember Chau.

Assemblymember Ed Chau represents the 49th Assembly District, comprised of the communities of Alhambra, Arcadia, El Monte, Monterey Park, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Temple City and portions of Montebello, and South El Monte.

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On April 20, in a unanimous bipartisan vote, the California State Assembly Committee on Education passed AB 2660 – the Quality Early Education and Development Act. AB 2660 requires the California Department of Education to develop a multi-year plan for a coherent prekindergarten system that will provide at least one year of high-quality prekindergarten to 4 year olds who need it most, with a strong focus on improving quality to support teachers and the best outcomes for children.

During the hearing, committee members and many advocates voiced their support of AB 2660 to address the unmet preschool needs of California’s young learners. Before the hearing, more than 30 school district, county office of education, business, law enforcement, military, parent, and religious leaders submitted letters declaring their staunch support for the bill.

“AB 2660 will ensure that every eligible child is provided an optimal opportunity to develop, learn, and succeed,” said Assemblymember Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), author of the bill. “High-quality early education is an investment in not only our young children, but our future.”

“AB 2660 creates a roadmap for California’s future by providing a plan for young children to get a strong start in high-quality preschool,” said Deborah Kong, president of Early Edge California, a sponsor of the bill. “I applaud the Assembly Education Committee’s show of support AB 2660, which will narrow the achievement gap and ensure all of our children have an equal opportunity to thrive in school and in life.”

“I really see preschool as an educational justice issue,” said Yolo County Superintendent of Schools Jesse Ortiz, testifying in support of AB 2660. He remarked that “preschool is the answer for long-term benefits” both to children and to society. “It’s time that public education and children’s issues start being looked at as an investment.”

Informed by research on access and quality of preschool, AB 2660 presents a thoughtful approach to addressing the unmet early learning needs of children and preparing them for success. Although the state has made progress in recent years, there are currently more than 33,000 eligible 4 year olds unserved by any publicly funded prekindergarten program, according to an analysis by the American Institutes for Research. The building blocks of quality preschool included in the bill demonstrate positive results for children, as summarized in a new brief by the Learning Policy Institute.

For more information, view the AB 2660 Bill Text and Analysis and the Early Edge’s AB 2660 page with the full list of supporters.

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Legislation authored by Senator Ben Allen (D – Santa Monica) was approved on a unanimous, bi-partisan vote in the Senate Education Committee on April 20 on a vote of 9 – 0. SB 916, the Theatre and Dance Act (TADA), will establish single-subject teaching credentials for theatre and for dance. Four-time Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner, Annette Bening, testified in support of the bill.

“California is the arts and entertainment capital of the world, and yet we are one of only two states in the country that does not authorize teaching credentials in theatre or dance,” Allen said. “This is an oversight that is long overdue to be corrected,” he added.

More than 200 colleges and universities offer theatre or dance majors. Under the current system, students who major in dance as an undergraduate are required to obtain a credential in physical education in order to teach dance. A theatre undergraduate major can only teach theatre after obtaining an English credential.

“Just as we would not require a student who’s majored in Spanish to obtain a credential in French, we should not ask theatre and dance majors to learn an unrelated subject to teach in their field,” Allen said.

Speaking in support of the bill, Ms. Bening said, “I think it’s the right thing; it serves students, it dignifies our teachers, and it will uplift our community.”

There are 13 core subjects for which specific credentials are authorized. Art and music are among them, but for no logical reason, theatre and dance are not. In fact, theatre and dance are the only subjects that have detailed standards in law which do not also have a credential.

SB 916 is coauthored by Senator Robert Hertzberg (D – Van Nuys) and Senator Jean Fuller, (R – Bakersfield). It is supported by the California Alliance for Arts Education (sponsor), the California Dance Education Association, the California Educational Theatre Association, Theatre Bay Area, the California Teachers Association, the California Federation of Teachers and United Teachers Los Angeles.

Sources:  Offices of Assemblyman Ed Chau, Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Sen. Ben Allen.



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