COLUMN: New plan will significantly improve school safety across Michigan

Categories: Hornberger News

The nightmare of every parent, teacher and school administrator played out again earlier this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, serving as a stark reminder that we must do more to protect our schoolchildren.

As a former teacher and school board member, I understand the complexity of this issue. There is not one simple solution that’s going prevent this tragedy from being repeated. It’s going to require a comprehensive approach, like the bipartisan plan I recently introduced alongside some of my House colleagues and the governor.

The plan would create a safe schools commission to review safety procedures in Michigan schools and provide resources to make security improvements in local districts across the state. The commission would develop a system to audit safety procedures in Michigan schools and distribute grants to make the highest-priority security improvements.

The wide-ranging plan calls for school inspections and evaluation of emergency procedures, funding for school security upgrades and increased exposure of Michigan’s OK2Say program, enhanced training for school staff and law enforcement, and other measures. Specifically, my legislation establishes a liaison within each school district to report to and work with the commission.

This isn’t a quick, one-time fix. It’s the first step of an ongoing process that will ensure school safety remains a priority. We must do everything we can, now and in the future, to create a safe and secure environment in our schools where students and teachers can focus on learning.

In addition to our new school safety plan, we’re taking action to address the mental health issues that so often lead to violence.

Last year, the House formed a mental health task force to closely examine our broken mental health system. The bipartisan group participated in more than a dozen meetings and tours, gathering information from patients, families, doctors, clinics and organizations across the state on how to provide better access to mental health services in Michigan. The task force came up with a number of solutions, some of which have already been approved by the House.

I was proud to support one measure, in particular, that has the potential to do a lot of good in our schools. House Bill 5524 gives school employees access to professional development training on mental health first aid. This training will provide our teachers with the knowledge to help identify the early warning signs of mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. It will also give them tools to connect with vulnerable students and refer them with the proper resources to get help.

With meaningful reforms like these kids can stop worrying about violence and instead focus on growing and gaining skills that will allow them to be successful in the future.

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State Rep. Pamela Hornberger of Chesterfield Township is serving her first term representing portions of Macomb and St. Clair counties in the Michigan House. Prior to taking office, Rep. Hornberger spent 23 years teaching in the East China School District and also served as a trustee for the L’Anse Creuse Public Schools Board of Education.