Legislature passes Padden school-safety bill, protecting students against violent threats

OLYMPIA – The state House gave final approval Wednesday to a measure that boosts school safety by requiring law enforcement agencies to notify nearby schools when violent threats occur.

Senate Bill 5514, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, requires first responders to inform public and private schools when there is a security threat nearby that might warrant a lockdown or evacuation.

Padden said the measure would allow schools to coordinate efforts with law enforcement. “The lesson of the last few years is that schools need to be prepared to deal with violence. We’ve done quite a bit to improve crisis planning, but notification needs to be part of the picture.”

The measure passed both chambers unanimously and advances to the governor’s office to be signed into law. The House vote was 92-0, and the Senate approved the measure March 5 by a vote of 48-0.

During committee hearings on the bill, school officials from the city of Seattle recalled their confusion in 2012 after Seattle police launched a citywide dragnet to capture the gunman responsible for the Café Racer shootings. One former private-school principal recalled having to follow the story on the Internet, with no advice from authorities as to whether a lockdown was advisable.

“This isn’t just an issue for the Puget Sound area,” Padden said. “The tragic shooting at Freeman High School in 2017 shows that violence can strike anywhere in the state, at any time. Crisis planning is the first step toward an effective response.”