OSPI School Safety Tips for April

Mike Donlin, Program Supervisor, School Safety Center, OSPI
Apr 29, 2021
Safety blog

On April 22, 2021, SHB 1484 was sent to the Governor for his signature. SHB 1484 is an act relating to the statewide first responder building mapping information system, commonly referred to as the ‘school mapping system.’

By way of history, following the Columbine High School mass shooting in 1999 and the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, a lot of national attention focused on school safety. Within the state of Washington, two parallel sets of requirements were soon put into law. In 2002, the Legislature passed SSB 5543 (RCW28A.320.125) requiring districts and schools to develop comprehensive school safety plans. In 2003RCW 36.28A.060 called for the development of a statewide first responder mapping system for all state and local government buildings.  

The safety planning requirements of RCW28A.320.125  have been adapted and modified over time. One example of such change came in 2007 when the RCW was modified to specifically incorporate the mapping system, (RCW 36.28A.060)  into comprehensive school and district safety plans. However, the legislation noted that this was a requirement when funding was provided.

(Interestingly, one of the requirements around school mapping has been the use of the system in at least one safety drill each year. We have answered a lot of calls over time asking just how that might be done.)

Over the years, $24M has been expended on the mapping system. The amounts allocated to districts and schools decreased significantly over those same years. For the last several fiscal cycles, appropriations have been provided for operations costs only, while no funds were appropriated for districts to actually map new schools or update existing information.

Because active shooter situations were a prime consideration when the system was first developed, it is important to note that law enforcement response to active shooters has evolved over time. In such situations, time is of the essence. Earlier on, law enforcement would open and look at floor plans before moving in as one unit. This took valuable time. Now, the first law enforcement officer to arrive at the scene is more likely to immediately move in and other law enforcement officers follow. 

Over time, added features have augmented the baseline system. However, the backend software standards for the database have not been updated while other, newer technologies have become commercially available.

In 2019, the Legislature tasked the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC) with conducting a study of school districts' use of the First Responder Mapping System in K-12 schools. That final Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee study was presented to the Legislature in January 2020. The bottom-line conclusion was that the existing school mapping system had outlived its usefulness and was no longer necessary. As a result, SHB 1484 eliminates all requirements for schools and districts around the use of the mapping system.  (It is important to note that the state owns the existing data which currently resides in the system; that data will be transferred to OSPI in the coming months.)

One final note. Although the use of the old school mapping system is no longer required, RCW 28A.320.126 does still require school districts to work collaboratively with local law enforcement agencies and school security personnel to develop protocols to expedite the response and arrival of law enforcement in the event of a threat or emergency at a school. This process should be a part of the district and school safety plan.

 

 


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