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My View: Let's take common sense measures on school safety to keep our students safe

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy on Dec. 14, 2012, in Newtown, Conn., shook us all to our core.

How could schoolchildren be the victims of such violence and horror? Parents and educators were especially rocked by the violence. Twenty students and six adults died.

Being a parent of four daughters and eight grandchildren, I want to protect them and all students in our public schools.

As a retired school principal, I knew how much was at stake. I also knew that Oregon had to do everything in its power to ensure we were prepared in the event a gunman enters a school in our state.

At that time, there were practical, common sense steps that hadn’t yet been taken to improve school safety. So as a lawmaker who has made both schools and public safety my top priorities, I knew we needed to act to ensure Oregon school districts were accountable for the safety of the students they serve.

That’s why I sponsored House Bill 2789 during the 2013 Legislature. This new law requires schools and school districts to implement, communicate and practice plans and procedures for responding to threats to student safety. This includes practice for lockdown procedures and other steps for responding to an active shooter.

Schools are required to drill on these procedures a minimum of two times per year, once per semester, with their local school boards responsible for updating the district policies to ensure the best protection possible is provided.

When the tragedy at Reynolds High School took place June 10, a heroic teacher followed procedures put in place by school leaders. His actions are believed to have played a role in preventing more casualties at Reynolds. The rapid and effective response by local law enforcement also helped prevent an even greater tragedy.

But not every school district is following Reynolds’ example. I’m concerned that too many students in

Oregon are attending schools where the crucial safety protocols outlined in HB 2789 have not been followed. Safety drills take just a few minutes, but their impact can literally last a lifetime.

There’s simply no excuse for our schools to ignore this basic precaution. Our student and staff welfare was placed in district leaders’ hands, and yet we now learn that HB 2789 has not been implemented.

That’s why I’ll be introducing legislation in 2015 to create new accountability measures that will ensure all of our children attend schools that are prepared for the day the unthinkable happens. These measures will help enforce the goal behind HB 2789: that our schools do all they can to minimize the threat posed by the kind of events that have done so much to shake our parents, our teachers and our kids.

It’s an unfortunate reality of modern life that there is much more to do to ensure the safety of our schools. However, even the longest journey begins with a single step.

By implementing simple, common sense measures, I believe Oregon has started down the path to ensuring our schools are safe. I’m proud of the Legislature for requiring school safety plans.

Now schools need to do their part.

Betty Komp, a Woodburn Democrat, has served House District 22 since 2005.