Bill to Help Schools Reopen Safely Being Stalled by Democrats in the State Senate

Written by Julianne Foster

Most California schools are being forced to go online due to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s orders in response to the high number of COVID-19 cases facing California counties. Although the virus still has little effect on children, teachers and parents are concerned with contracting the disease from their child if they were to come in contact with it during school. However, many students will struggle with their ability to learn anything this upcoming year if they are forced to remain online. 

School districts in rural counties that have low enough case numbers to allow in-person learning, but many do not have the technological resources necessary to provide a quality online education and are attempting to serve as examples for the rest of the state to be able to reopen. However, Democratic legislators are hindering their ability to reopen with financial security, something that is paramount in this time of national financial instability.

By contrast, Assembly Bill 1384 requires school districts to establish policies and procedures for reopening school activities and facilities in a way that complies with federal, state, and local legal and regulatory requirements related to COVID-19. The bill, co-authored by Republican State Senator Andreas Borgeas, provides school districts with liability protection, such as those in rural counties who do not have the resources for online learning and are in need of reopening in person. 

Currently the bill is being stalled by Democrats in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Even several of the Democrats who co-sponsored the bill voted against holding discussion or providing California schools with such liability insurance. 

“Schools, primarily in rural areas, don’t have the infrastructure to provide distance learning, which hurts students’ ability to learn. Many of the schools throughout my district are grappling with opening for in-person instruction, and one of the sticking points is liability insurance,” said Republican Senator Brian Dahle. “Assembly Bill 1384 would provide schools with that protection, but it is currently stuck in the Senate Judiciary Committee. That needs to change.”

Dahle has requested a motion to withdraw AB 1384 from the Senate Judiciary Committee to allow the State Senate to engage in discussions concerning whether schools should be provided with liability protection during the pandemic. These discussions could support the liability insurance and schools reopening, which is why Democrats are currently stifling it. Senator Dahle has the complete support of the State Senate Republican Caucus. 

“When schools reopen they should do so without the cloud of lawsuits looming overhead. Legal protections for schools and businesses should be legislatively created for the duration of the state of emergency so long as they are in compliance with state and local health rules,” Senator Borgeas added.