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Lawmakers announce legislation to address active shooter response and mental health policy

Sen. Phil Fortunato, R-Auburn, Republican Whip, Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and other stakeholders will announce proposals to address school safety in Washington State that includes funding and training for active shooter response by school staff, and mental health policy.

OLYMPIA, Wash. – As a response to school shootings and threats throughout our state and country, Senate Republicans announced new legislation Wednesday to address school safety in Washington state.

Sen. Phil Fortunato and Sen. Barbara Bailey, along with other stakeholders, announced their proposals Wednesday afternoon on school safety that includes funding and training for active shooter response by school staff and mental health policy.

Senate Bill 6618 is focused on ensuring access to mental health counselors in public and private schools.

In a press conference Wednesday, Sen. Bailey said she wants the state to provide funding to have a mental health professional on every single school campus to help students and any issues they may be going through right now.

She said the school shooting in Florida two weeks ago, prompted her to do something here.

“It was very obvious that the person who committed this crime and the horrific things that happened was mentally deranged,” Sen. Bailey said. “In that light, I decided what is it that is missing here in the state of Washington? And the fact is, we’re not helping our children.”

The other bill is Republican Sen. Phil Fortunato's proposed Student Safety and Protection Act, which would establish a training program that school districts and teachers could follow in the case of an active shooter.

RELATED STORY: WA lawmakers introduce, propose school safety bills

The bill would allow teachers to carry guns, but it would not mandate them to do so.

Toppenish School District already follows this training procedure.

RELATED STORY: 'Student safety is paramount:' Central Wash. district already has armed staff at schools

Sen. Fortunato stressed that this would be a voluntary program and up to the local school district if they want to participate.

He said the goal of the training—whether schools choose to be armed or unarmed—is to help reduce the "gap time" of when a shooting starts for what school officials can do until law enforcement arrives.

"I want you to think about this, from the time that guy started in Florida–from the first shot to the last shot–it was three minutes,” Sen. Fortunato said. “So, if we have someone on site we can respond and save lives quickly.”

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