Funding K-12 education is the paramount duty of the state, yet students need far more than just academics in school. More resources, more coordination, and more support is needed to help all schools improve training and safety measures. Those are the guiding principles behind House Bill 1216, the bipartisan school safety measure by Rep. Laurie Dolan (D-Olympia), vice chair of the House Education Committee.
The bill was signed into law by Governor Inslee today.
The legislation is the product of a 10-month stakeholder process with parents, teachers, students, school leaders, and community safety experts that began after the 2018 legislative session, to create a robust plan for school safety and student well-being.
The bill will create “Regional School Safety Centers” across the state to provide training, support, and coordination to educators and students. Amended into the legislation are the provisions of Senate Bill 5141 by Sen. Lisa Wellman (D-Mercer Island), chair of the Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee, regarding School Resource Officer (SRO) training and policies. Wellman also introduced the companion to Dolan’s bill in the Senate.
“We’ve heard from students, parents, teachers and administrators that school safety is a growing and ongoing concern,” Wellman said. “Each and every student should feel safe and secure as they go to class, and every parent should know that their child will return home at the end of the day. This bill is a great step toward ensuring that reality.”
The bill requires each of our nine educational service districts to establish Regional School Safety Centers to provide training in behavioral health coordination, suicide prevention, school-based threat assessment, as well as staff assistance in crisis situations, technical assistance, and partnership development and collaboration. The final 2019-20 state operating budget provides funding for one FTE in each Regional Safety Center.
“Moving forward, I plan to continue working with budget leaders to provide funding for additional FTEs to maximize the efforts of the Regional Safety Centers,” said Rep. Dolan.
A State School Safety Center is also established within the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to serve as a clearinghouse and to disseminate information regarding school safety. It will also develop model policies and procedures, identify best practices, and provide training on school safety. The state center will work with the regional centers to help school districts meet state school safety requirements.
Public engagement will continue through the School Safety and Student Well-Being Advisory Committee. The advisory committee will meet at least quarterly to make recommendations on policies and strategies, and identify emerging safety issues. By Jan. 1, 2020, the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA), in collaboration with the OSPI, must develop a model policy and procedure to establish a School-Based Threat Assessment Program. During this process, WSSDA, OSPI and the advisory committee will work with organizations with expertise in school safety, behavioral health, the rights of students with disabilities, and protecting civil liberties.
The bill also mandates training for SROs in school districts that choose to have them. The school district must confirm that every SRO has received training on twelve topics — including relevant federal and state laws — best practices on working with youth, and alternatives to arrest and prosecution. By the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, school districts must annually review and adopt an agreement with the local law enforcement agency that incorporates specified elements, such as defining the duties of a SRO, confirmation that SROs are trained, and a complaint process.
“As a grandparent, an educator for 30 years, and now as a legislator, there’s probably nothing more important to me than school safety and student well-being. Those two have to go hand in hand because kids not only need to be safe, they need to feel safe in our schools,” said Rep. Dolan.