Senator Bruce Dammeier
Last month’s fatal shooting at Seattle Pacific University was a shocking reminder of the potential dangers facing students in kindergarten through college. In the wake of 2012’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, I sponsored a proposal during the 2013 legislative session to improve school safety and police response times, in the event of such an emergency here in Washington. As lawmakers we knew we had to leverage new technology and security practices to improve student safety.
While we would hope these tragedies never happen, we must be prepared — that means identifying and taking proactive measures to secure school grounds and expedite access by security personnel. My legislation identified our goals and set the direction. The bill also directed a working group to establish a statewide competitive grant program to provide funding for projects that would help keep our students and faculty safe. Senate Bill 5197 passed the Senate and House of Representatives unanimously and was signed into law by the governor.
At the end of May, following the grant development process and period to review school district’s proposals, almost $7 million was awarded statewide. While I was happy to see this plan move forward for students and schools throughout all of Washington, I was especially pleased to see our own Puyallup School District take full advantage of this opportunity.
As a result, the Puyallup School District will receive $425,640 for 35 different projects, the third highest amount of projects in any district in the state, behind Seattle and Federal Way.
The legislation recognized that coordination between local law enforcement and school districts is essential. They must work together to complete a new or upgraded emergency response system to reduce response times in case of an emergency. The funding will pay to design system upgrades and install necessary equipment that connect schools and local law enforcement. Some of the grants allow law enforcement to use technology to gain control of locks and access to security cameras to enhance security responses.
Reduced response times and more information for emergency responders could save lives and improve outcomes during a security threat.
In addition to establishing the policy, the Legislature also allocated $10 million in the 2013 capital construction budget for the program. The original disbursement comes after the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction worked with its School Safety Advisory Committee to establish a competitive application process and guidelines as state lawmakers requested.
The result is a great step forward toward improving student security for our entire state, and especially Puyallup and all of Pierce County.
Students, teachers and staff should arrive in the classroom every day able to focus entirely on learning. We must continue to look for innovative ways and embrace new technologies that move us toward that goal.
As a state legislator focused on education and a former Puyallup School Board member, I’m encouraged by the district’s commitment to our students by taking advantage of this opportunity and demonstrating the meaningful ways they’ll work to improve safety.