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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Bill calls for better warning system for schools

UPDATED: Tue., Jan. 30, 2018

OLYMPIA – Public and private schools throughout Washington would get better, more consistent notification of dangerous events in their vicinity under a bill considered Monday by a Senate panel.

Law enforcement would also have up-to-date “maps”, or blueprints, of the schools in their community if they had to respond to an emergency there.

“All of us are very concerned about school safety,” Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill’s sponsor, told the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Committee. In the wake of tragedies like the fatal shooting at Freeman High School, “we want to be proactive and do what we can,” he added.

If passed, the bill would require law enforcement to notify all public and private schools near a dangerous event so that school officials could take action to protect their students.

Joe Sprague, executive director of the Washington State Catholic Conference, said private schools sometimes don’t get warnings of dangerous events at nearby public schools. Teachers and administrators might not know something’s happening unless they see cars speeding by with sirens on or hear police helicopters overhead.

A provision that would require mapping of every public and private school building, so that law enforcement would know the layout before going into a dangerous situation, was supported by public and private school officials. But they raised questions about who would pay for it.

“It’s a wonderful issue, but it is expensive,” said Mike Donlin, program director at the School Safety Center for the superintendent of public instruction.

Padden said in a later interview the public may think police automatically have instant access to maps and floor plans of schools because that’s what they see on television shows. In real life, that’s not the case, he said.

Until a few years ago, the state provided money for school mapping whenever the capital budget provided money for new construction or remodeling. But the capital budget no longer routinely provides that money, and there are questions as to whether the state can use public money to map private schools.

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