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Mother of Sandy Hook victim backs Washington school safety bills

Washington lawmakers showcased a package of school safety bills amid a broader debate over how to improve school safety and prevent mass shootings.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Emilie Parker wanted to be a famous artist. Instead, the six-year-old is best remembered as a victim of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.

Her mother, Alissa Parker, hopes lessons learned there, can keep other children safe.

"What we had in our schools and what we expected from our schools just wasn't practical in application in real crisis situations,” said Parker, who was in Olympia on Tuesday backing a series of bills aimed at making campuses safer.

Credit: Courtesy Alissa Parker
Emilie Parker.

The bills, proposed by Democratic Senators and Representatives, include measures to hire more counselors, increase suicide prevention training for teachers and staff, and establish “Regional Safety Centers” around the state to provide training and support for educators looking for help for potentially dangerous students.

Some Republicans favor measures that focus on increasing police presence in schools and arming staff, including teachers.

In remarks, Democratic legislators emphasized that difference, and also the importance of reaching at-risk students early.

The bills did not call for giving teachers guns.

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“Our bills are around arming teachers with information about mental health,” said Rep. Tana Senn, D-Mercer Island.

Following the 2012 shooting, Parker co-founded the Safe and Sound Schools organization, traveling the country telling her story and encouraging school districts and legislators to increase security on campus, along with taking preventative steps.

She now lives in Vancouver, Wash. and has two daughters who attend Washington public schools.

Parker believes what happened to Emilie will keep her kids and others safe.

"I always know she's with me, and I knows she's there supporting me and helping me, and that's one of the reasons I can do what I do," said Parker.

The Associated Press contributed.