School safety: Smith’s emergency assistance bill heads to Senate

FILE PHOTO Assemblywoman Christy Smith represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes Agua Dulce, Castaic, Santa Clarita, Simi Valley and the northern San Fernando Valley. 08-16-19 BOBBY BLOCK / THE SIGNAL

Assemblywoman Christy Smith, D-Santa Clarita, announced Wednesday her bill to create a task force within the state’s Department of Education to help schools and their districts during emergencies is on its way to the Senate. 

Assembly Bill 1837, dubbed the State Assistance for Emergency Response Team, or “SAFER,” specifically requires the superintendent of public instruction to establish a SAFER team within the Department of Education to provide guidance and support to local agencies experiencing emergencies, such as wildfires and pandemics. 

“As we deal with the consequences and fallout of this pandemic across the board, we must not forget our students, vulnerable to learning loss, food insecurity and the digital divide,” said Smith in a prepared statement. “These issues agonize our school administrators as they gear up for reopening. SAFER lends state support and provides clear guidance on the ground, no matter the emergency.”

The bill comes as three destructive wildfires struck Smith’s 38th Assembly District, which includes the Santa Clarita Valley, when it experienced the Tick Fire in October 2019, as well as other issues such as public safety power shutoffs and the deadly Saugus High School shooting in November last year. 

The SAFER team “would be required to guide the process for expedited requests for allowance of attendance due to specified emergency conditions, and the procurement of funding sources for appropriate emergency supplies such as food, cleaning products, and air masks,” according to the bill analysis. 

AB 1837 is now en route to the state Senate. 

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