Rep. Jim Walsh, R-Aberdeen, released the following statement on House Bill 1216, approved Thursday by the House. The school safety measure would establish certain school safety protocols, regional school safety centers, and the student well-being advisory committee. It also adds a representative from the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to the Emergency Management Council.
Walsh says the bill’s intentions are good, but it doesn’t go far enough. The 19th District lawmaker says the risk of this legislation is that people think they are doing something, without actually making schools and students safer.
“This bill focuses primarily on education bureaucracy—on OSPI and Education Service Districts. It produces more administration, not increased school safety. Frankly, it doesn’t do enough to address the immediate and practical concerns of keeping students safe.
While many local schools have made efforts to secure entryways and campuses, Walsh would like to see a stronger state-supported effort. He added, “Pragmatic and realistic steps need to be taken that would make our schools secure places for children to learn. That includes increasing protection by hardening K-12 campuses and providing trained, on-site incident response.
“If we are going to talk seriously about school safety, we need to talk about redesigning school campuses with things like line-of-sight, entry-and-exit design, and landscaping that doesn’t create blind spots where a bad actor can hide. Vulnerabilities should be identified and changed. Human resources, both armed and unarmed, need to be on every K-12 campus keeping students safe.
“We provide these kinds of protections for government buildings, airports and even shopping malls—why not schools? It’s easier for someone to do harm in our schools than it is in a bank or a store!
“Hardening our K-12 campuses against risks, both human and natural, is the critical step in keeping our school kids safe. That’s where we need to focus. Although this bill has good intentions, it doesn’t provide real-world protections for students.
“If this bill had been revised to include practical safety improvements, I would have voted yes. As it stands today, it doesn’t. More bureaucracy is not enough for our children. We have enough bureaucracy already. What we need more of is common sense when it comes to the protection and safety of our kids.”