Senate passes school-safety bill, notifying schools in emergencies

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate Tuesday night passed a bill enhancing school-safety programs by requiring law enforcement authorities to notify all nearby schools in cases where violence is threatened.

Senate Bill 5514 requires notification to all schools, public and private, when the possibility of violence makes evacuations or lockdowns a sensible precaution. Law enforcement authorities would be required to determine if local schools are threatened.

Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill’s sponsor, said the measure would allow school officials to better coordinate their efforts with law enforcement. “To ensure the safety of our schools, we need to make sure we have crisis plans in place. The Legislature has done a great deal these last two sessions to ensure we are prepared, but notification must be a key element in any effective plan.”

In committee testimony, school officials recalled their bewilderment in 2012 after Seattle’s Café Racer shooting, as police chased the gunman across the city. One former private-school principal remembered having to follow the news on the Internet, with no advice from authorities as to whether a lockdown was advisable.

“The tragic 2017 incident at Freeman High School shows we must be prepared to respond at any time, at any place,” Padden said. “Proper planning is the first step in preventing harm.”

The measure was approved unanimously by the Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.