I’m an educator, special needs advocate and mom who has worked tirelessly for over a decade to ensure children have access to a quality education in a healthy and safe learning environment. Sadly, for too long our schools have experienced an unacceptable rise in violence on campus.
Multiple studies demonstrate that bullying, fights, suicide attempts and school shootings are all happening more frequently. Over the past decade alone, the number of lives lost to teen suicide has skyrocketed, a record number of students reported being bullied frequently, and more than 10% of middle and high school students saw someone carrying a knife, gun, or other weapon on campus at least once during the school year.
Just a few months ago, I met a young student from Porter Ranch who was horrifically bullied online. She bravely shared her heartbreaking story during one of our Assembly committee hearings. Tragic stories like hers are becoming more and more common.
For members of our community, the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas, is all too familiar. The horrific 2019 Saugus High School shooting took the innocent lives of Gracie Anne Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell. While we may never completely heal, everything must be done to prioritize the safety of our students and stop these senseless tragedies.
This year, the state Legislature debated multiple proposals to reduce violence in our communities, but few have specifically targeted the troubling rise in violence our students face on campus.
That is why I introduced Assembly Bill 312, the Saugus Strong Act, which gives students a safe, convenient way to report concerning behavior, threats, or potential violence on campus. The bill creates a statewide, 24/7 crisis center staffed by trained counselors who can receive and appropriately respond to incoming reports. Under the bill, credible reports would be sent to school administrators and, depending on the severity of the threat, to law enforcement.
Multiple states have already adopted this program and successfully curbed violence on school campuses. Similar programs, like Safe2Tell in Colorado and Safe Voice in Nevada, have already helped prevent multiple mass shootings, stop numerous suicide attempts, and intervene in countless instances of fighting or bullying.
The Saugus Strong Act is an important step toward preventing further violence in our schools. By providing students, teachers and parents with an easy and meaningful way to act on potential threats, the Saugus Strong Act will help ensure that no concern goes unnoticed.
In all of my conversations with parents, teachers, school administrators and students, it’s clear our community shares my commitment to vastly improving safety on school campuses. By providing schools with this important resource, the Saugus Strong Act will reduce violence on campus and save lives.
As your assemblywoman representing our voice in the State Capitol, it’s an honor for me to stand with our students and parents to improve campus safety. Let’s address this growing problem and build a better and safer future for our kids.
Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares represents the 38th Assembly District, which includes most of the Santa Clarita Valley.