Last week the state Senate Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously to improve communications between emergency first responders and school officials in the name of student safety.
Senate Bill 6410, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, requires first responders to notify both public and private schools to any situation that could require an evacuation or lockdown. The bill also seeks to establish one school safety center for each side of the state.
“Many times schools have to call law enforcement for information about emergencies when it should be the other way around,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley, in a press release. “The bill would help increase safety in all schools, public and private, and it takes a proactive approach by requiring law enforcement to notify schools in these critical, sometimes life-and-death situations.
“I’m pleased that my colleagues on both the K-12 policy committee and the Ways and Means fiscal committee have advanced this bill, and I look forward to the full Senate having an opportunity to approve it soon.”
During a hearing prior to the vote on the bill Kristine Dixon, superintendent for the Archdiocese of Seattle, said the bill is long overdue.
“Many of those I have spoken with are surprised that this requirement is not already in place,” Dixon said at the hearing. “Unfortunately, it is not, which I can attest to from personal experience.”
SB 6410 managed to clear the Ways and Means Committee on the final day possible in order to stay alive for the 2018 legislative session. According to Paul Bootsma, of Lynden Christian Schools, the bill is imperative to student safety and parent peace of mind.
“Ultimately this comes down to safety for all children,” Bootsma said in the release. “We realize that there are some costs to agencies in making all schools – private schools and public schools – aware of threats to student safety, but we recognize too the bottom-line importance of keeping all students safe. So we ask you to support this bill and mitigate the risks for our student bodies and our schools.”
The regional school-safety centers proposed in the bill would be charged with providing assistance and resources related to behavioral health, threat assessment and suicide prevention. The bill would allow private schools to contract with regional school-safety centers for services.
SB 6410 has received support from Joe Sprague, executive director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, Sara Betnel of the Washington State PTA, Suzie Hanson of the Washington Federation of Independent Schools, and Kevin Chase of south central Washington’s Educational Service District 105, among others.
The bill is currently in the Senate Rules Committee, which is the final stop before a full vote before the Senate. Additional information, including updates, on SB 6410 can be found online at http://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=6410&Year=2017.