Walsh pre-files bills aimed at increasing school safety

Rep. Jim Walsh is calling on the Legislature to begin taking practical steps to increase safety on K-12 school campuses across the state. The lawmaker has pre-filed two bills for the upcoming 2019 session targeting school safety improvements.

“The time is now. We cannot risk more of our kids getting hurt. Practical solutions must be put in place that make our public schools safer—safe from shooting incidents and safe from other types of risks and dangers,” said Walsh, R-Aberdeen.

Violence in schools continues to be an everyday fear for parents, students, and school districts. At the conclusion of the 2018 legislative session, Walsh joined other Republicans in requesting the governor call a special session to address school safety concerns. Although those efforts were unsuccessful, Walsh says the subject is too important to dismiss.

“Recent violent events, not only in Washington state but all over the nation, threaten the safety of our students. This emotional issue requires pragmatic, real-world solutions. There are things we can and should do today that will protect students and prevent violence,” continued Walsh.

Under Walsh's first proposal, House Bill 1035, every public school in the state would receive funding to employ a full-time school resource officer (SRO). SROs are commissioned law enforcement officers that provide security services on school campuses.

“This bill puts a uniformed, armed security officer in every school in the state. It's one of the most important things we can do, right now, to make our schools safer. A uniformed presence is not only a deterrent to violent activity, but if something does occur, an SRO is already on site, trained and able to respond.”

Walsh's next school safety proposal, House Bill 1038, would allow public and private schools to authorize employees to carry a concealed firearm on school campuses. Before carrying a concealed firearm, administrators, staff or teachers willing to volunteer would be required to complete specialized firearms training equivalent to that of a commissioned law enforcement officer.

“Sadly, it can take law enforcement several minutes to respond to a serious, violent event. Armed teachers and staff can immediately move to protect students if the unthinkable happens. Having that kind of on-site response is reason enough to move forward.”

The lawmaker also plans to co-sponsor legislation that would provide incentives to school districts using best practices for crime prevention in new construction and major remodeling projects. Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is a set of principles used to discourage criminal behavior through architectural design. Along with increased safety, Walsh says this multidisciplinary architectural approach promotes a more positive learning environment.

“Many of the criticisms of these types of design elements is that it makes schools look like a prison. However, CPTED tools avoid that institutional prison-like environment by using things like line of sight, secure entries and exits, and sometimes landscaping. These changes can make a dramatic difference in school safety. This change would give schools incentives to use CPTED without requiring them to do it.”

The 2019 legislative session begins Jan. 14 in Olympia and is scheduled for 105 days.


Washington State House Republican Communications