LANSING, Mich. — Formed after the deadly shooting at Oxford High School late last year, the School Safety Task Force, which sits within the Michigan House, published some preliminary recommendations to make schools more safe.
“We came up with quite a few recommendations that I think are easily able to be implemented and are good public policy and probably wouldn't be very controversial," said State Rep. Scott VanSingel, R-Newago. "We put most of them into two categories. Mental health was the overriding issue, and then actual physical security of the buildings.”
The task force was formed three months ago and is made up of eight representatives, with an even split between Democrats and Republicans.
VanSingel says addressing mental health issues by providing greater access to students and providing more training for school teachers and staff rank high on the list of recommendations.
“There's three threat assessment models out there currently, and there are some schools that are using one of them and some schools that aren't using any of them. It's just a patchwork across the state. And so our recommendation is you pick one of these three models and you train all of your staff how to make these threat assessments," he said.
The three methods were developed by different organizations like the Secret Service, the University of Virginia and the Salem-Keizer School district. All three aim to educate staff and implement protocols to prevent school based violence.
Other recommendations include having an independent third party conduct a security assessment for all Michigan schools, adjust jurisdictional differences especially for school resource officers in rural areas and shorten the time it takes to address issues reported through the state’s Okay2Say hotline.
"I've spoken to numerous educators, and they tell me that the mental health situation in our schools is deteriorating. It was a problem before the pandemic, and it's only gotten worse," said Thomas Morgan, who serves as a communications consultant for the Michigan Educators Association. "So we're hopeful that that the legislature can take action to help end the shortage of educators and school social workers and counselors and give our kids the support they need.”
Legislators are already planning to introduce bills in the coming weeks based on their recommendations.
“Politics can come later. We have an emergency right now, and we're hopeful that everyone can set aside politics for a while and come together for the sake of our kids," Morgan said.
VanSingel says he hopes to see real movement on the new bills by May and June.
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