Padden school-safety bill signed into law

Senate Bill 5514 is signed into law Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee. Left to right, Tim Hunt, director of communications and outreach for the Washington State Catholic Conference, Suzie Hanson, executive director of the Washington Federation of Independent Schools, Catholic Conference government affairs representative Luke Esser, Padden session aide John Jourdan, Sen. Padden and Padden session intern Dagny Ahrend.

OLYMPIA – A bill requiring schools to be notified when violent incidents occur nearby was signed into law Friday by Gov. Jay Inslee.

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

The new law will allow schools to better coordinate their efforts with law enforcement, Padden said. “The last few years have taught us that we need to be prepared,” Padden said. “If we are going to respond to crises effectively, we need to plan in advance. The Legislature has been doing considerable work on this issue, and it became clear to us that notification needs to be a key element.”

The measure passed both chambers by a unanimous vote, 48-0 in the Senate and 92-0 in the House.

The state’s private schools offered strong support for the bill. In emergency situations, private schools often are overlooked. During committee hearings, private-school officials recalled the citywide chaos in 2012 as Seattle police launched a dragnet to capture the gunman in the Café Racer shootings. A former private-school principal said she had to follow the story as it developed by reading blog postings on the Internet, with no advice from authorities as to whether a lockdown was advisable.

Padden said the tragic shooting at Freeman High School in 2017 shows violence can strike anywhere at any time. “What happened at Freeman was a reminder that this isn’t just an issue for urban areas. If we move quickly and deliberately in times of crisis, we can help protect our children from harm.”