Several school safety bills that that were recommended in the wake of school shootings around the country–including the 1998 rampage at Springfield’s Thurston High School–were signed into law June 26 by Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Among other things, the measures create a statewide toll-free hot line to allow students to alert school authorities to possible violence and require schools to adopt anti-bullying policies.
“These bills go a long way to reduce the threat of violence across the state,” Kitzhaber said at a ceremony attended by a coalition of educators, police, students, and others that was formed following the Thurston High shootings.
Thurston student Kip Kinkel fatally shot two students and wounded 25 others. Kinkel, then 15, had killed his parents at home the previous day. He is serving a 112-year sentence for the shootings.
Democratic state Rep. Bill Morrisette, who was mayor of Springfield at the time of the shootings, was chief sponsor of HB3647, the measure setting up an anonymous hot line for reporting suspicious activity on school grounds.
The bill requiring schools to adopt anti-bullying policies won legislative approval after backers said that while most schools have harassment policies in place, the rules were designed with sexual harassment in mind, not mean-spirited teasing.
Supporters of HB3403 said constant teasing and harassment of students by other students can eventually lead to a violent reaction, as evidenced by the rash of school shootings over the past few years.
“That’s where these things start,” said Neil Vargas, a student member of the school safety coalition who recently graduated from Forest Grove High School. “This definitely does address smaller problems that can escalate into larger problems.”
Kitzhaber signed a third measure, HB3429, to create a state Center for School Safety at the University of Oregon. It will function as a clearinghouse to give technical support to schools and report to the Legislature on the status of school safety.
The three measures were recommended in a recent report by the statewide school safety coalition that was formed by Oregon Attorney General Hardy Myers. He called the bills a “big step forward to maintain safety in our public schools.”