State Rep. Kathy Schmaltz is joining a bipartisan effort to improve the safety of students at schools throughout Michigan.
Schmaltz, of Jackson, is helping sponsor a K-12 school safety plan that carries out the recommendations of a legislative task force formed in the wake of the Oxford school tragedy. The legislation was submitted to the House enrolling clerks last Thursday and was slated to be introduced this week before the horrific events unfolded Monday night at Michigan State University.
“The timing of this bill package is not lost on any of us,” Schmaltz said. “The horrifying events that unfolded at Michigan State University once again shattered our sense of security and left people across our state with a feeling of deep despair. In the days following the Oxford tragedy and again today we ask ourselves ‘how could this happen?’ It’s a complex issue with no one simple solution, but the bipartisan bills we introduced represent a willingness to work together to improve school safety and address the mental health needs of Michigan students.”
Following the Oxford school shooting, the bipartisan task force met with teachers, administrators, parents, law enforcement, mental health professionals, and other experts to identify policy solutions that could help prevent future acts of violence against students and teachers. The task force released its report last December.
The plan introduced today is designed to organize a unified approach to school safety and student mental health with communication, training, personnel, and more. The package would:
- Establish the School Safety and Mental Health Commission. This commission would identify best practices for schools to address behavioral, physical, and mental health needs. The commission would support at-risk students and work to reduce youth suicides by establishing a comprehensive statewide approach.
- Dedicate school staff to student safety and mental health. Each intermediate school district will receive funding to hire one safety and security coordinator and one mental health coordinator. These new staff would serve as points of contact for school safety plans, grant opportunities, and mental health and security strategies. They would maintain communication between the state and school districts within the ISD, while also facilitating communication between other school districts in their region.
- Plan for safety. A measure sponsored by Schmaltz would require schools to review and update their safety plans every three years in consultation with their ISD-level safety coordinator. Another provision would establish statewide standards to guide the implementation of modern security measures for school buildings.
- Expand and improve OK2SAY. Contact information for the OK2Say confidential tip line would be placed on school ID cards for easy student access. Reporting and tips received by OK2Say would be passed on to the ISD coordinators and local law enforcement; reporting and tips would also be provided quarterly to the School Safety and Mental Health Commission. Higher standards and new reporting definitions for OK2SAY would also be adopted.
- Improve responses to school safety crises. The plan would require the Michigan State Police to provide uniform, comprehensive school safety and security training for school resource officers and all staff at Michigan schools. It would also create uniform definitions statewide for school safety terms, such as lockdowns, to foster better communication during crisis events. Other provisions would add more active-shooter drills and ensure at least one drill includes local law enforcement involvement and one is conducted between classes.
Schmaltz noted that although the legislation specifically addresses K-12 schools, the Legislature should explore additional ways to protect colleges and other locations.
“School safety is not a partisan issue,” Schmaltz said. “It’s an issue we all care deeply about. That’s why it’s so important that Democrats and Republicans are working together to put the safety and the mental health of Michigan students first.”
The plan, laid out in House Bills 4088-4100, has been referred to the House Education Committee for consideration.
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