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Jerry Brown signs school safety law prompted by abortion protest

August 3, 2011 |  1:13 pm

Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law a measure sought by the Los Angeles school district that toughens the penalties for creating a disturbance near a campus, addressing controversy over an anti-abortion demonstration.

Assemblyman Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) said he wrote the measure in response to a March 2003 incident in which graphic images of an aborted fetus were mounted on a vehicle and driven past a middle school in Rancho Palos Verdes.

"Because of the disturbing nature of the photographs, some students at the scene became angry, some began to cry, and others stared while standing in the street creating a traffic safety hazard,’’ Mendoza said.

The bill was signed three years after a federal court found that the 1st Amendment rights of anti-abortion activists were violated when they were ordered to stop circling Dodson Middle School in a truck with billboard-sized photos of aborted fetuses.

The intent of the new law was questioned by Robert Muise, an attorney for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, the group that staged the 2003 demonstration outside the school but was stopped by school officials and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies.

"I think it's meaningless,’’ Muise said. "If they pass this in a way to prevent the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform from engaging in peaceful demonstrations on public streets they are not going to win that fight.’’

Muise said the demonstrators were not acting in a way to threaten students.

The legislation, which takes effect Jan. 1, creates a new misdemeanor crime for creating a disturbance on or next to an elementary or middle school campus where the action threatens the physical safety of students.


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Photo: California Gov. Jerry Brown. Credit: Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times