criminal law

California Penal Code Section 626.8

JLS is middle school in the Palo Alto Unified School District. The school is located adjacent to Mitchell Park. The JLS Athletic Fields is an open, unfenced field located between the school fence and the park, with a pathway marking the border.

I spotted the JLS Athletic Fields sign, which cited California Penal Code Section 626.8. I wasn’t sure whether the penal code section was in reference to the use of the field during school hours, or the requirement to register at the school office.


The sign states:

Welcome to the JLS Athletic Fields

JLS has exclusive use of these fields during school hours, 7:30 AM – 3:30 PM. During these hours all visitors must register at the school office. Any person who violates these rules will be cited under C.P.C. Section 626.8

The penal code section prohibits persons from coming upon school ground (which should cover the athletic fields) without lawful business and “whose presence or acts interfere with the peaceful conduct of activities of the school or disrupt the school or its pupils or school activities.”

So, playing soccer on the athletic fields during school hours can get you cited for a misdemeanor, which is punishable by a fine up to $500 and imprisonment in county jail up to six months, or both. However, that’s only if you remain after being asked to leave by the principal, member of the security or a police officer. Sounds completely reasonable.

However, California Penal Code Section 626.8 does include an odd provision. Paragraph (a)(4), which was added by Assembly Bill 123, penalizes a person who “[w]illfully or knowingly creates a disruption with the intent to threaten the immediate physical safety of any pupil in preschool, kindergarten, or any of grades 1 to 8, inclusive, arriving at, attending, or leaving from school.”

We’re not talking about someone who physically harms a pupil, but a person who creates a disruption with the intent to threaten the immediate physical safety of a pupil. Furthermore, this prohibition only protects pupils in preschool and K-8.

The Mercury News reported that this provision was added because an anti-abotion group was displaying large photographs of aborted fetuses outside a California middle school. Yes, such behavior may cause a disruption, but how exactly does it threaten the immediate physical safety of a pupil? Doesn’t seem to fit at all.

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