School safety bills get hearing in Senate

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Two school safety bills proposed this year by Sen. Steve O’Ban, R-University Place were heard in the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee.

The bills arose out of recommendations from the task force on mass shootings that was formed from legislation written by O’Ban in 2018.

“The mass shooting prevention task force made some very reasonable recommendations that included providing standardizing training and more funding for additional school resource officers, and creating a better threat-assessment process so schools can identify potential risk,” said O’Ban. “We would be wise to follow these recommendations toward making our schools safer for our kids.”

Senate Bill 5052 would provide commissioned law enforcement officers with the authority to take all actions necessary to protect students and faculty as school resource officers assigned to address crime, gangs and drug activities in or around K-12 schools. The officers would focus on keeping students out of the criminal justice system.

It would also require the development of training for the officers and create a model agreement for how the officers shall operate. The Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs would be responsible for implementing a grant program to fund the officers

Senate Bill 5216 would require Washington state school districts to develop a multistage structured team process for schools to use in evaluating the risk posed by a student, usually in response to a specific threat or behavior. If the assessment finds there is a risk of violence in a specific situation, the team must work with law enforcement officers and others to reduce the threat.

The assessment process must focus on behaviors, not characteristics, of individual students. It must be incorporated into the schools’ student supports. It would include engagement with the families of the students whenever possible. And, the process should look to address any special needs of the student.

SB 5216 would also require that the multistage threat-assessment process be shared with local law enforcement and service providers, as appropriate.

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