Mathis’ school safety legislation passes Assembly

District 33 Assemblyman Devon Mathis authors legislation to encourage California schools, county education offices to implement web-based emergency response systems

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office participating in a ActVnet crisis demonstration at Orosi High School on Dec. 2, 2023. There, deputies simulated an active shooter situation with multiple law enforcement agencies, as well as fire and emergency services support. (Tulare County Sheriff’s Office)
Serena Bettis
Published January 30, 2024  • 
12:00 pm

SACRAMENTO – Fifty-three seconds — that’s how long it took, on average, for law enforcement officers in Tulare County to reach and subdue a simulated threat during an active shooter training that put a web-based emergency response system to the test. 

Porterville Assemblyman Devon Mathis wants to see that technology deployed in schools throughout California — and the rest of the country — which is why he authored Assembly Bill (AB) 960 last year. The bill encourages all public and private K-12 schools to adopt a web- or app-based emergency response system that could be crucial when responding to an active shooter, or even a natural disaster. 

Mathis first introduced the bill on Feb. 14, 2023, and it was sent to the Committee on Education, where it was amended and held until this January. The Assembly then unanimously passed the bill on Jan. 18; it currently sits in the Senate Rules Committee.

“You can’t stop evil from happening, but you can practice and train and develop systems on how you will react, and that’s what ActVnet is,” Mathis said. “It is a system that integrates everyone — law enforcement, emergency services, teachers, school administrators, students. This is something that, when we’re running drills, we can teach and it brings everyone together.”

ActVnet is a school safety system developed by the Tulare County Office of Education (TCOE) in 2018. In December 2023, Tulare County first responders from multiple agencies conducted a training at Orosi High School using ActVnet, which yielded the 53-second time. 

“For those of you who are in the health care professions, you know that to stop the bleeding, seconds count,” Mathis said in a State Assembly floor speech on Jan. 18. “And when we have children that are harmed, we need to make sure that that first person with a badge can take action. This allows us to do so.”

AB 960 outlines specific features that emergency response systems like ActVnet should have. It recommends things like a multilayered digital map of the school site, detailed school information that includes the number of students and teachers and the hierarchy of school administrative officials, 360-degree interior and exterior photography and the ability to alert first responders on an emergency. 

The idea behind these features is that with easy access to the information, dispatchers and first responders can work together to examine a school site under threat, identify the location of the threat and the best way to approach. 

The system would also be able to show which classrooms have students in them, where people may need medical attention and if there are any students away from their classes. 

Mathis has said that a system such as ActVnet would be instrumental in avoiding a situation like what happened during the shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, 2022. 

A report on the incident released by the Department of Justice on Jan. 18 showed that the response to the shooting was disorganized and officers lacked proper active shooter response training; AB 960 could prevent some of the issues encountered in that situation.

“As we’ve seen, since Columbine, school shootings have continued,” Mathis said. “So what are we doing to protect our schools? To protect our children, to protect our teachers and administrators? And what that DOJ report (said) and why I pointed to that, is because it makes the case on how vital ActVnet truly is.” 

The first iteration of the legislation would have mandated all public and private schools in the state to implement such a system by 2030; however, that was changed in committee. 

Mathis said that while he disagreed with the thought that it should not be mandatory, he still felt that the legislation covers an important issue that needs to be addressed or encouraged in schools.

“At this point, it’s like I shouldn’t have to convince anybody that this is a needed system, that every school on the planet should have a system like this,” Mathis said.

Serena Bettis
General Assignment Reporter