Today, keeping communities and schools safe is more challenging than ever for the agencies and officials charged with doing so. With active-shooters, cyber-terrorism, bio-terrorism, natural disasters, and other threats, safety planning and management requires an all-risks approach and an understanding of a wide range of laws. Also critical is communication and coordination between the various public agency stakeholders, include schools, police, cities, counties, fire, special districts, state agencies and federal authorities.

Areas of Practice

Our Public Safety Practice group draws from our decades of experience representing schools, cities, police, fire, and various other public agencies to provide integrated advice to our clients on safety-related issues. Areas in which the group provides advice include:

  • Natural Disaster Response and Recovery
  • Active-shooter response
  • Threat assessment
  • School safety planning
  • Bullying prevention, investigation and response
  • NIMS and SEMS
  • Crises management and communication
  • Interagency coordination
  • Information sharing under privacy laws
  • Search and seizure
  • Workplace violence

UPDATE: Ninth Circuit Finds Lawsuit Regarding COVID-19 Limits on In-Person Learning Now Moot

By:Sloan Simmons, Kaitlyn Tucker -

August 2022Number 36The plaintiffs in Brach v. Newsom (9th Cir. June 15, 2022, No. 20-56291) __ F.4th __, originally filed a case in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, challenging various orders, including the 2020-2021 Reopening Framework, issued by California government officials concerning the operation of both public and private schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The District Court denied the plaintiffs’ request to prevent the State from enforcing t...

REMINDER: New Fingerprinting Requirements for All Contracts Became Effective January 1, 2022

By:Arne Sandberg, Andrea Ortega -

May 2022Number 21Due to lingering questions in the education community, we are sending this Client News Brief as a reminder concerning new fingerprinting and criminal background check criteria for employees of any entity that has a contract with a local educational agency (“LEA”). The 2021-2022 Education Omnibus Budget Trailer Bill (AB 130) was signed by Governor Newsom on July 9, 2021. Effective January 1, 2022, the requirements of Education Code section 45125.1 were br...

Updates to Masking Requirements for Students and Employees

By:Sloan Simmons, Joshua Whiteside -

March 2022Number 16The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released new guidance, which includes changes to the legal requirements for face masks and new health and safety recommendations for local educational agencies to consider.On February 25, 2022, the CDC released new guidance describing how the CDC now measures the impact of COVID-19 on local health and healthcare systems within each U.S. county. This new guidan...

Superior Court Dismisses Lawsuit Challenging the State's Face Mask Mandate in California K-12 Schools

By:Sloan Simmons -

February 2022Number 7On November 12, 2021, San Diego Superior Court Judge Cynthia Freeland ended a lawsuit filed against Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), and other California state health officials. The lawsuit was filed by two organizations, Let Them Breathe and Reopen California Schools. The plaintiffs’ complaint alleged nine causes of action and challenged, among other things, the CDPH’s guidelines and mandate for face coverings in K-12 ...

Legal Challenges to Student Vaccine Mandates Produce Varying Results

By:Sloan Simmons, Alyssa Bivins -

January 2022Number 5**Update Pending**Vaccine mandates enacted by and affecting local education agencies have faced various legal challenges, with differing outcomes. Divergent court rulings regarding student vaccine mandates have been issued, often within days of rulings regarding mask mandates, resulting in a changing and sometimes confusing legal landscape. This Client News Brief addresses the legal challenges to student vaccine mandates.LAUSD Student Vaccine Mandate – Los Angeles Su...

California Expands Public Access to Police Records

By: -

October 2021Number 32Governor Newsom signed Senate Bill (SB) 16 on September 30, 2021, expanding the types of police officer records subject to disclosure pursuant to a public records request. This is an expansion of provisions enacted in SB 1421, that went into effect on January 1, 2019. (See 2018 Client News Brief Number 60.) SB 1421 increased public access to certain police records related to incidents of discharge of a weapon at a person, incidents involving great bodily injury or death, ...

Face Coverings Still Required in Certain Circumstances under New Rules

By:Karen Rezendes, Joshua Whiteside -

June 2021Number 10The past two weeks have seen a flurry of changing guidance regarding the use of face masks at workplaces and schools. On June 17, 2021, the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board adopted revised COVID-19 workplace rules and the Governor signed Executive Order N-09-21 making these rules effective immediately. The same day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance for fully vaccinated individuals to address changing rules on ...

Laws & Regulations


School duty to provide a safe environment for students and employees. (Cal. Const., Art. 1, Section 28(f)(1).)
Comprehensive school safety plan requirements. (Education Code sections 32280 to 32289.)
Closed session meeting with law enforcement regarding tactical elements of safety plan. (Education Code section 32281(f)(3); Government Code section 54957.)
Standardized Emergency Management System (“SEMS”) requirements for schools. (The Petris Bill)(Government Code section 8607; Title 19, California Code of Regulations, Sections 2400-2450.)
School employee designation as disaster service workers. (Government Code Section 3100.)
Facilities master plan safety-related elements. (Education Code section 16011; Title 5, California Code of Regulations, Section 14000.)
Schools are required by both federal statute and state regulation to be available for shelters following a disaster.
Child abuse reporting requirements. (
Penal Code Section 11164.)
Discrimination and harassment policies and procedures. (Education Code sections 200 to 234.5.)
Discipline for terroristic threats. (Education Code Section 48900.7.)
Release of student record information in an emergency. (Education Code Section 49076 (a)(2)(A).)

Agencies


California Department of Education - Provides guidance on safety planning as well as safety-related collaboration with constituents and partners.
California Emergency Management Agency - The agency responsible for overseeing and coordinating emergency preparedness, response, recovery and homeland security activities within the state. Offers a wide range of training, information and assistance to schools in emergency preparedness.
Department of Homeland Security - This federal department is responsible for securing the United States from a number of threats, including preventing terrorism, enforcing immigration, ensuring resilience to disasters, safeguarding cyberspace, and securing the country’s borders.
United States Department of Education - Offers guidance in creating physically and emotionally safe learning environments.
Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) - Provides a wide variety of training & guidance for schools to strengthen their emergency management capacity.
Alfred E. Alquist Seismic Safety Commission - Offers information and guidance for earthquake preparedness.

Planning Guides


Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Brief (July 2018)
National Threat Assessment Center - Brief
Enhancing School Safety Using a Threat Assessment Model (July 2018)
U.S. Department of Homeland Security; United States Secret Service; National Threat Assessment Center - Guide
A Study of the Pre-Attack Behaviors of Active Shooters in the United States Between 2000 and 2013
U.S. Department of Justice; Federal Bureau of Investigation
School and Firearm Safety Action Plan (May, 2018)
State of Texas: Governor Greg Abbot
Safe Schools: A Planning Guide for Action Workbook (2002 Edition)
California Department of Education
Guide for Developing High-Quality School Emergency Operations Plans (June 2013)
United States Department of Education
Best Practice Considerations for Schools in Active Shooter and Other Armed Assailant Drills (December 2014)
National Association of School Psychologists & National Association of School Resource Officers
Primer to Design Safe School Projects in Case of Terrorist Attacks and School Shooting (2012)
Department of Homeland Security
National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities
Active Shooter Guidebook: How to Respond (2016)
California Emergency Management Agency
School Emergency Planning and Safety Page
California Emergency Management Agency
Natural Disaster Response Resources
Association of California School Administrators