'We'd rather be safe than sorry:' FBI and WA lawmakers discuss evolving safety measures at school

Immediately following the tragic mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, several school related threats were reported in Western Washington. On Friday, the FBI and state lawmakers shared what the process to prevent copycat situations looks like, as well as how safety measures in the classroom are continuously evolving.

On Friday, the Tacoma Police Department (TPD) announced they arrested a 13-year-old child for threatening to recreate the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. 

This was just one of several school related threats in Western Washington in the last few weeks.

Immediately following the tragedy in Uvalde, there were two reported threats at schools in the Puget Sound area on the same day. The first happened at a junior high school in Puyallup. The other incident happened in the Blaine School District.

Officials say copycat situations are unfortunately expected, however, these sorts of threats are not uncommon before the tragedy.

FOX 13 News discovered six other gun-related incidents in Tacoma Public Schools in about a month, and the majority of them happened before Uvalde:

  1. On May 5, TPD says security spotted a gun in a 14-year-old student’s backpack at Giaudrone Middle School. The student did not make any threats, or display the gun. The student was expelled and arrested.
  2. On May 10, a parent reported their 13-year-old brought a gun into Gray Middle School.
  3. On May 16, a student brought a realistic looking toy gun into Gray Middle School. That student was expelled.
  4. On May 25, a report came in that a student at Lincoln High School was pistol whipped by another student outside of the school.
  5. On June 1, security reported a student brought a gun into school in their backpack at Lincoln High School. Police say the gun in the student’s bag turned out to be stolen, and the student was arrested.
  6. On June 2, a 13-year-old threatened another student in the classroom, saying they were going to "re-create the school shooting in Uvalde". A parent found out and reported the incident late Thursday night. The 13-year-old was arrested for felony harassment.

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FOX 13 News spoke to the FBI about keeping kids safe in the classroom:

"We would like to prevent a school shooting rather than react to a school shooting, and one of the biggest resources that we have is the public" said FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge Kelly Smith

Smith says thousands of tips come in every day. He says the best way to prevent a dangerous event is to report any sort of threat.

"We’d rather be safe than sorry," he said.

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Safety in schools also means making sure students know what to do when faced with dangerous situations. However, accomplishing that is an evolving concept in classrooms.

"What are we doing as adults, and parents, and school staff, with respect to the trauma that's inflicted just because they’re practicing that," said Washington State House Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos.

This year the state banned active shooter scenarios under House Bill 1941.

Instead, emergency drills are broken down by shelter in place, lockdown, or evacuations.

"The central law still requires that every month, one of these three types of drills will take place," said Tomiko Santos.

Police are asking parents to take the time to start the conversations with their children about what to do if they hear threats, witness assaults, or experience an unsafe situation at school.