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February 11, 2013 at 3:52 PM

State Senate passes bill funding school panic buttons, other security measures

The state Senate unanimously passed a school-security bill Monday afternoon, but an influential state House member questioned whether the measure has too many requirements.

Senate Bill 5197 would require all school districts to install panic alarm systems — essentially, a silent alarm notifying police of a crisis — in all of their schools by the end of 2014, and would urge districts to “strongly consider installing a perimeter security control mechanism,” like locking all exterior doors.

Districts also would be required to give preference to new school building designs that restrict the public to as few entrances as possible and that give officials direct control and a way to see those entering the school.

“I wish we lived in a world where we knew our children were entirely secure and safe in their schools, but we do not,” said prime sponsor Bruce Dammeier, R-Puyallup. “With the passage of this bill, I believe our children will be safer than they are today.”

The bill would provide $5 million for the panic buttons and make another $5 million available for additional security measures on a case-by-case basis.

The funding came out of a roughly half-billion dollar school construction package also unanimously approved by the Senate on Monday. That bill was mostly a routine measure approving state matching funds for school districts pursuing construction projects. The only change from previous years would be that under the bill, districts might be able to get money faster.

State Rep. Hans Dunshee, a Snohomish Democrat who chairs the House committee that oversees the state capital budget, said he has questions about the safety bill.

“It’s laudable stuff, but it’s odd to me that it’s so prescriptive in the method,” Dunshee said. “There are a whole bunch of things that schools can do for safety, and I’m looking into all of it, but to prescribe panic alarms and door locks seems odd to me. Maybe one district wants security cameras, and another wants a chain-link fence.”

Dunshee said he did not yet know what would happen with the bill in the House.

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: Bruce Dammeier, Hans Dunshee, Newtown


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