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Standing united for student health and school safety

WEA's 2020 Legislative Priorities Include Ensuring Safe Public Schools and Campuses for All Students and Staff

Creating a safe learning environment is a critical part of helping all students achieve their full potential. All students and staff have a right to safe public schools and campuses where they can learn and work without fear of aggression, harassment, or violence. WEA supports legislation that guarantees safe public schools and campuses for all students and staff.


Issues

Safe Washington schools

Develop, pilot and implement a notification system parents and K-12 educators could use to report physical and/or verbal abuse or other behaviors that disrupt student learning. The digital system would provide monthly school-level reports, and school boards would be expected to review the information and enact strategies for improving school safety.

Comprehensive sexual health education

Sen. Claire Wilson introduced SB 5395 in the 2019 legislative session. The bill would require all school districts to offer comprehensive sexual health education not later than Sept. 1, 2021, and it would include curriculum on consent. It passed the Senate but not the House, but the bill remains alive for the 2020 session. Three WEA members serve on a statewide workgroup reviewing the curriculum and making recommendations to the Legislature.

Increased funding for school construction and modernization

Students and staff need safe, secure, up-to-date school buildings. Yet state funding for school construction and modernization is less than half of what its own funding formulas require. State funding levels for school construction are not adequate for current educational standards, nor do they provide the space necessary to provide the smaller class sizes required by law. Local school districts are forced to rely on local voter-approved construction bonds, which require a 60 percent supermajority for approval. The reliance on local funding has created inequities in school facilities between socioeconomic groups and geographic regions statewide. 


Background

WEA leadership and Gov. Inslee convened a series of community meetings focused on student health and school safety.

Here are key findings from the school safety meetings:

  • Educators and students are needed around the decision-making table; their experiences help highlight effective preventative measures that lead to reducing school violence and improving health and safety at school.

  • School communities (e.g. educators and students) are expressing undeniable signs of stress and anxiety around school violence. Educators and students say their learning environment is hurt by the ongoing need to cope with the worry and stress of potential violence at school.

  • Some students aren’t enjoying school; educators see visible signs of depression and stress, which increases the number of students at risk for violence. One student said, “I’m torn between two thoughts: safety is always at the back of my mind, and yet I think it’s never going to happen at my school.”

  • There is little-to-no progress reducing mental health stigma, coupled with a growing need for students to use mental health services.

  • Large class sizes and the lack of trained mental health staff in schools are barriers to meeting the social and emotional needs of students.

Two answers were consistent across all of the meetings:

  • Students and educators are fearful of violence on a regular basis even without a history of threats or violence on their campus.