School safety bills deserve hearing

Michigan is not doing enough to prepare for and prevent another school shooting despite a bipartisan school safety bill package lingering in the Legislature now for more than a year.

It’s been two-and-a-half years since the shooting at Oxford High School that left four students dead, and more than a year since the shooting at Michigan State University in which three people died.

Lawmakers and policy leaders have been sounding the alarm on vulnerabilities in the K-12 school systems and the skyrocketing mental health crisis among Michigan’s youth.

Yet Democrats continue to hold back bipartisan legislation that would organize a more unified approach to school safety and student mental health.

House Bills 4088-4100 were assigned to the House Education Committee after their introduction more than a year ago on Feb. 14, 2023, coincidentally the day after the MSU shooting.

The comprehensive school safety plan is the result of the Bipartisan School Safety Task Force, which was formed in response to the Oxford High School shooting and is based on its findings and other best practices.

It should have moved through the House committee process already, especially considering it has support from both parties.

Two weeks ago, House Minority Leader Matt Hall, R-Richland Twp., introduced discharge petitions for the bill package to remove them from their current committee and move them toward a floor vote.

The motion was rejected on a voice vote. Rep. Matthew Koleszar, D-Plymouth, chair of the Education Committee, did not support their discharge.

“Safety is a top priority of this committee and I look forward to future dates,” he said. “We will give these bills a hearing after they’re ready to go as recommended by the task force.”

That’s a poor excuse. The task force completed its recommendations. Lawmakers and experts could air out issues with the bills by scheduling a committee hearing on them.

Two Democrats would need to join the five Republican members to authorize a committee meeting without approval from the chair.

But the delay calls into question whether it is a priority for Democrats to do all they can to keep kids safe at school.

The 13-bill package would establish the School Safety and Mental Health Commission to identify best practices for schools to address behavioral, physical and mental health needs through a comprehensive statewide approach.

It would dedicate school staff to student safety and mental health and require each intermediate school district (ISD) in Michigan to hire a safety and security staff to serve as points of contact for school safety plans, grant opportunities and strategies. The state would fund the positions.

The bill package would also require Michigan public schools to have safety plans and review them every three years with the ISD coordinator and to implement modern security measures.

In addition, the package would improve the OK2SAY program. Information from a confidential tip line would be placed on school ID cards for students, and reporting and tips would be passed on to coordinators and local law enforcement.

The school safety plan would require Michigan State Police to provide uniform, comprehensive security training for resource officers and all staff at Michigan schools. It would also streamline school safety terms for better communication during a crisis and require more active-shooter drills.

These are common sense protections Michigan kids deserve to have in place. Democrats are playing a reckless game by holding the legislation back.

— Detroit News


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today