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O.C. Lawmakers’ School Safety Bills Signed

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Gov. Pete Wilson signed a raft of legislation from two Orange County lawmakers Thursday designed to help curb school violence, including a new law that creates a 1,000-foot “gun-free zone” around campuses.

Among the measures are a trio of bills from Assemblywoman Doris Allen (R-Cypress) that address school hate crimes, establish a “zero-tolerance” policy requiring expulsions for possession of guns or drugs at school and make it a felony to violate the gun-free zone.

Wilson also signed a bill authored by Assemblyman Tom Umberg (D-Garden Grove) that prohibits drug dealers or convicted offenders from entering school grounds or loitering nearby.

“Schools should be a safe haven for children, not another in a string of places where they fear for their safety,” Wilson said in putting his stamp of approval on the legislation, which was among 11 school safety measures he signed Thursday.

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The governor’s approval was a particular victory for Allen, who had made school safety her paramount issue this year. She began pushing a slate of bills to quell school violence after witnessing her own granddaughter endure several acts of school violence--including having rivals try to set her hair on fire--before the family moved from Southern California to Montana to escape the problems.

Although she won broad support from parents and educators, Allen had to fight a pitched battle against Sacramento’s powerful gun lobby last month to win approval for her measure creating a gun-free zone.

During the waning days of the legislative year, gun advocates attempted to sabotage the bill. Allen managed to save it only after a heated round of lobbying. Miffed by the episode, Allen fired back by casting the deciding vote to push a bill banning copycat assault weapons out of a key committee.

The gun lobby responded by pushing for substantial amendments to an Allen bill designed to toughen vagrancy laws on school campuses. That move scuttled the vagrancy bill because the changes were deemed by legislative leaders to be major amendments that could not be taken up so late in the year.

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Under the gun-free zone law, those possessing a weapon within 1,000 feet of school grounds could face felony charges. The measure exempts residents living within the zone.

Allen’s “zero-tolerance” measure requires expulsion of students caught with drugs or weapons on campus. Expelled students will be sent to special “community schools” to continue their education under tight supervision.

Several students from Huntington Beach High School were the inspiration for Allen’s measure that directs schools to punish pupils for racist hate crimes.

Umberg’s bill, which was sponsored by the city of Anaheim, makes it a misdemeanor for a drug offender to enter school property or loiter on public areas next to schools without written permission of administrators. Drug offenders who are the parents or guardians of children attending the school are exempted.

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Umberg said the new law will help close “a bizarre loophole” for local law enforcement. In trying to enforce existing laws that prohibit convicted drug users and sellers from entering city parks, officers have been foiled when the offenders step onto school grounds, where city ordinances are invalid.


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