Padden school-safety bill clears committee deadline

The Senate Ways and Means Committee voted unanimously late Tuesday to advance Senate Bill 6410, concerning school safety. Under the measure, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, first responders would be required to notify both public and private schools during any situation in their vicinity that would warrant an evacuation or lockdown. The bill would also create two school safety centers – one in eastern Washington and one in western Washington.

“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. “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.”

At a hearing Monday on the bill, Kristin Dixon, superintendent for the Archdiocese of Seattle, called the bill long overdue.

“Many of those I have spoken with are surprised that this requirement is not already in place,” she told the fiscal committee.

“Unfortunately, it is not, which I can attest to from personal experience.”

Paul Bootsma with Lynden Christian Schools agreed, calling the measure critical to student safety.

“Ultimately this comes down to safety for all children,” he said. “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.”

SB 6410 cleared the Ways and Means Committee late on the final day for the Senate’s fiscal committees to approve measures in order for them to remain “alive” for the 2018 session.

Under the measure, two regional school-safety centers would provide assistance and resources related to behavioral health, threat assessment and suicide prevention. In addition, the bill would permit private schools to contract with the regional school-safety centers for those services.

SB 6410 received the support of 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.

The bill now goes to the Senate Rules Committee – the final stop before a full vote of the Senate.