Assemblymember Alex Lee Introduces Bill to Equally Protect Students from Toxic Sites

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA - AB 762, introduced by Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-25) and Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D-58) would require charter schools and private schools to follow the same siting requirements as public schools in order to ensure the public health and safety of all students and school employees.

The bill would require private and charter schools to identify nearby sources of air pollution, consult with their local air districts, and meet siting requirements by evaluating the schoolsite for potential hazardous substances, hazardous emissions, or hazardous waste. 

“All schools should be required to meet the same safety requirements to ensure all children and school staff are safe from hazardous materials,” said Lee. “There’s already too much inequality in our education system. Children who attend different types of schools should not be unequally safe.”

Existing law requires public schools to follow certain requirements before approving and building a new school. Private schools and some charter schools, however, are not currently subject to all of those requirements before building a new school. 

As a result, a school could potentially be built at an unsafe location near sources of hazardous emissions, substances, or waste. Consequently, the public health and safety of the students, teachers, and school employees could be put at risk.

“Children in my district already deal with some of the state's highest levels of toxic air, soil and water. Building a school site on contaminated land just adds insult to injury when the science makes it clear that the toxics affect our children's development and ability to succeed academically," stated Assemblymember Cristina Garcia. "AB 762 will ensure all schools are held to the same high standard and make it clear that a charter school designation is not a license to risk our children's health and safety."

AB 762 , sponsored by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), would ensure that the governing board of a private school or the governing body of a charter school would not be able to approve a project for the acquisition or purchase of a schoolsite unless:

  • It is determined that the property is not a hazardous site or a site that can potentially release hazardous emissions, substances, or waste.
  • The administering agency in which the proposed schoolsite is located and any air pollution control district or air quality management district having jurisdiction in the area has been notified in writing and consulted with to identify facilities within the district’s authority that might reasonably be anticipated to emit or handle hazardous emissions, substances, or waste.
  • A health risk assessment is done that determines that there are no significant pollution sources, and the health risks will not endanger the public health (or that corrective measures will be undertaken to mitigate hazardous emissions).

“In my district, a private elementary and middle school was built right next to a concrete plant in Fremont,” said Lee. “That level of chemical and dust exposure can have detrimental impacts on children whose lungs are still developing. These children are being exposed to these toxins every day when they go to school that can lead to developmental and cognitive issues as well as chronic diseases later in life.”

Media contact: Charlsie Chang | Charlsie.Chang@asm.ca.gov 

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Assemblymember Alex Lee sits on the Budget Committee as well as the Committees on Education, Transportation, Privacy & Consumer Protection, and Rules. He represents the 25th Assembly District which includes the cities of Fremont, Newark, Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara. 

Assemblymember Cristina Garcia represents the 58th Assembly District which includes the cities of Montebello, Pico Rivera, Commerce, Bell Gardens, Downey, Norwalk, Bellflower, Cerritos and Artesia.