State Rep. Mark Tisdel on Tuesday helped introduce a bipartisan plan to strengthen safety at Michigan K-12 schools and support students’ mental health.
Tisdel, R-Rochester Hills, co-sponsored the plan, which resulted from months of in-depth work by the House’s Bipartisan School Safety Task Force. Formed in response to the Oxford High School shooting, the task force released its report last December, with input and support from Michigan parents and professionals in law enforcement, education, and mental health.
“Protecting Michigan students in their classrooms must be a top priority in our state, and the Bipartisan School Safety Task Force carefully studied where our state and our schools are lacking in our approach to student safety and mental health,” Tisdel said. “This bipartisan, statewide plan will address weaknesses in school security, fill gaps in student mental health supports, and mitigate miscommunication.”
Tisdel expressed his sympathy for the victims of Monday night’s shooting at Michigan State University, noting that although the package of legislation specifically addresses K-12 schools, the Legislature should explore additional ways to protect the entire state — including colleges.
“The deadly shooting at Michigan State has left grief and pain in its wake — for the survivors, for the family and friends of the victims, and for all of us,” Tisdel said. “After Oxford, lawmakers, parents, and experts came together to write a detailed plan to help secure Michigan schools and support Michigan students, and we must continue working together to keep the people of Michigan safe.”
The bipartisan plan, contained in House Bills 4088-4100, is designed to organize a unified approach to school safety and student mental health with communication, training, personnel, and more. The package addresses specific problems identified by the task force: tips submitted to the OK2SAY system not getting to law enforcement officers, an insufficient focus on mental health at schools, a lack of communication between school mental health experts and school resource officers, no active threat training for some school staff, and inconsistent terminology that can lead to poor communication among first responders and police officers from different departments.
To address these problems, the plan 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 a safety and security coordinator and a 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. Schools would be required to review and update their safety plans every three years in consultation with their ISD-level safety coordinator, and statewide standards would 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.
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