Bill promotes violence-awareness in Calif. schools

The state Senate approved a bill on Thursday that would require education officials to create lesson plans about violence in American culture — the Legislature's latest reaction to mass shootings last year elsewhere in the nation.

Under SB552, individual schools could decide whether to include the lessons in curriculum.

The bill's author, Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, hopes to counter the mass marketing of violence through video games, television and movies.

Calderon said many children also are exposed to real violence every day in their neighborhoods or through media reports.

“Schools can provide a counterbalance to the flood of violence that our children are exposed to daily,” Calderon said.

The Senate sent the bill to the Assembly with a 29-7 vote. Four Republican senators joined Democrats in supporting the measure. All seven no votes came from Republicans.

The Department of Education would develop the anti-violence programs the next time it updates the state's social science curriculum in 2015.

The bill would allow school districts to include violence-awareness and prevention lessons as part of social science classes for students in grades 7 through 12.

Calderon likened his proposal to current classes designed to help students make wise decisions about sex, drugs, tobacco and, more recently, bullying.

He said the bill takes a complementary approach to many of the violence-prevention measures moving through the Legislature this year, including numerous bills seeking to place greater restrictions on gun ownership and ammunition.

Legislators are hoping to deter attacks such as the ones last year in Aurora, Colo., and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

The bill's one-paragraph description contains little information about what should be included in the lessons, though Calderon intends to expand his proposal with amendments in the Assembly.

His chief of staff, Rocky Rushing, said the measure might sound “kind of touchy-feely” but the effects could be far-reaching.

The senator envisions schools teaching students how real and imagined violence can affect them, how they can respond, and how society can respond with measures such as gun control and domestic violence programs.

They could also learn how to raise their own children with less exposure to violence.

“I think it has the potential to create long-lasting change in our society, maybe even more so than some of these gun violence measures,” Rushing said.

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