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Senate passes school-safety bills

Washington’s State Senate passed three bills related to safety in schools this week, adding to a broad list of measures in-motion that address different topics around school safety, like anti-bullying and school resource officers.

Here’s a rundown of what those bills will do if they pass out of the House and become law:

The Mass Shootings Work Group, which was created in the 2018 supplemental operating budget, wrapped up its work at the end of last year and issued its final report. These first two bills directly address some of the 25 recommendations the work group adopted.

SB 5027 allows courts to enter extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) against minors. ERPOs are meant to prevent people who are at-risk of harming themselves or others from having or getting firearms and concealed pistol licenses. The bill also requires notice to the minor’s parent or guardian that they need to safely secure their firearms. This bill passed the Senate in a 43-5 vote, and now heads to the House.

SB 5141 defines what a school resource officer (SRO) is and does, sets training and agreement requirements for SROs, and requires OSPI to establish a grant program to fund training for SROs. Current law doesn’t define what SROs are, but they’re essentially a police officer assigned by their department to work in a school. The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and is on its way to the House.

SB 5514 addresses notification of schools if there’s an emergency in their area. It requires first responder agencies to alert all public and private schools if there’s a situation in their vicinity that might make an evacuation or lockdown reasonable.

“The tragic 2017 incident at Freeman High School shows we must be prepared to respond at any time, at any place,” Sen. Mike Padden, the bill’s lead sponsor, said in a press release. “Proper planning is the first step in preventing harm.”

Senators passed that bill off the floor unanimously, and now it moves to the House.

Another recent bill off the Senate floor, SB 5689, is aimed at preventing harassment and bullying of transgender students — it might also be interpreted as addressing one of the task force’s recommendations:

“Suicide and bullying prevention outreach and education efforts should be supported and modernized.”

Earlier this session, Democrats from both chambers introduced a package of “school safety & student well-being legislation” that includes 10 bills, many of which also address recommendations from the work group.

“No responsible Legislature can ignore the hard truth: Our responsibilities towards our children and our education system must include ensuring, to the very best of our ability, that our children are safe and secure,” Sen. Lisa Wellman, Chair of the Senate Early learning & K-12 Education Committee, said.

The ERPO and SRO bills were part of the announcement — other bills from that package are also still on the move this session, including HB 1216/SB 5317, which would establish Regional School Safety Centers across the state.

The centers would distribute information about school safety, develop model policies and procedures, and help districts meet state school safety requirements. That bill passed out off the House floor in a bipartisan 83-14 vote, and is still alive in the Senate as well.

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