A bill that would require all schools in the state to implement a panic alarm system in the event of a threat has moved closer to a full vote on the Senate floor.
The panic alarms would be located in school administration offices and be directly linked to local law enforcement. The bill also encourages school boards to install perimeter security and requires more rigorous design standards for construction of new buildings or major remodels.
“We are trying to just buy seconds. We are trying to get law enforcement there a little bit quicker and make it a little bit harder for somebody who wants to do evil to our children from getting to them,” said Sen. Bruce Dammeier (R-Puyallup), the prime sponsor of Senate Bill 5197.
The price tag of the panic alarm system is estimated at $5.5 million and would come from an existing $10 million appropriation in the K-12 capital budget. The dollars left over would be available for other school safety projects.
The legislation is being considered less than two months after a deadly mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
“The tragedies that have been happening around the country with school shootings are not lost upon school superintendents around the state,” said Kevin Chase, the superintendent of Grandview School District. “We all know that it is the response time of the police department that is very, very important.”
Chase told lawmakers to also consider training for students and staff to respond to a threat. He said school districts have traditionally been trained to lock down, while new protocol suggests running from the threat of an active shooter first.
“As school districts, we know we are on our own. I have met with law enforcement every week for the last month and a half. Their comment to us is, chances are you are on your own and this will end prior to us arriving. I honestly think schools are going to end up looking more like airports than they do the school building that you think are going to happen.”
The Senate Ways and Means Committee passed the bill on Thursday and it is expected to get a vote on the Senate floor early next week.