Dori: OSPI chief explains what Washington’s schools are doing to prevent gun violence
As details continue to unfold in Tuesday’s Uvalde, Texas carnage that took the lives of 19 fourth graders and two teachers after a lone 18-year-old gunman shot up their school classroom, many questions are emerging.
In Washington state, like other parts of the country, news coverage of the mass murder has parents and students, in particular, anxious and asking about students’ safety here, The Dori Monson Show told listeners Wednesday.
“There are monsters who walk in our midst,” Dori said. And yet, he continued, “statistically, schools continue to be one of the safest places for youth to be.”
Then what should local parents and students know about school safety in the wake of the mass shooting in Uvalde? Dori asked.
For starters, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal told Dori’s listeners on Wednesday, it is a “moment to mourn. We all need to grapple with this.
“Two: we have some of the best safety protocols in the country,” the schools’ chief continued. “We are a state that, like many others, has regular drills and training,” including annual safety reviews performed by each district.
Reykdal also said that Washington state makes proactive “threat assessments” a regular practice if a student is identified as a potential threat to others. This involves regional experts who draw in school personnel, mental health counselors and, if necessary, law enforcement, he added.
These threat assessments involve “a deep level of evidence that warrants a call to a regional coordinator,” the superintendent told Dori. This might include “online imagery or an online threat or maybe something a counselor has identified,” he added.
“There is an expert in every region that can pull a team together to meet with students and families,” Reykdal explained. “We’re usually intervening well before there is any actual violence.”
And while school shootings grab the headlines, Reykdal continued, they are “still exceedingly rare” – especially when compared to the number of youth “suicides by guns in their own home.”
A 2021 analysis of childhood suicide data between 2013 and 2017 found that guns were the second most prevalent suicide method used by kids 5 to 11 years old, according to The Trace, a non-profit journalism group focusing on gun violence. In almost every case, the study cites, children got the gun from their home.
“Securing our firearms,” Reykdal said, “could save far, far more lives.”
Learn more about Washington state’s School Safety Center.
Listen to Dori Monson weekday afternoons from noon – 3 p.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.
- Tune in to KIRO Newsradio weekdays at 12 noon for The Dori Monson Show.