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Rep. Harris introduces bipartisan plan to support school safety, student mental health

RELEASE|February 14, 2023 Contact:Mike Harris

State Rep. Mike Harris and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Tuesday introduced legislation to bolster safety at Michigan K-12 schools and support students’ mental health.

The plan resulted from months of in-depth work by the House’s Bipartisan School Safety Task Force, which was formed in response to the Oxford High School shooting. The task force released its report last December, with input from law enforcement and educational professionals.

“Michigan schools must be safe, secure, and healthy learning environments for our students,” said Harris, R-Waterford. “The Bipartisan School Safety Task Force met with educators, public safety officials, mental health professionals, and parents, and our plan takes a comprehensive approach to support our schools as they educate and protect Michigan young people. This integrated, statewide strategy was thoroughly vetted by experts, and it will help strengthen school security, improve safety training, expand mental health resources, and build other supports for students and staff.”

Harris expressed his sympathy for the victims of the Michigan State University shooting Monday night. He noted that although the package of legislation specifically addresses K-12 schools, the Legislature should explore additional ways to protect colleges and other locations.

“The tragedy at Michigan State is sad and horrifying,” Harris said. “We need to rally behind the MSU community now as friends and family members grieve and victims heal. We must work to prevent such tragedies in the future and keep people safe in our state. Our bipartisan plan can help us take the next steps for safety by starting with our K-12 schools, and the task force can also serve as a model for the collaboration we need to protect the people of Michigan.”

Harris, a former police sergeant at the Waterford Township Police Department, is the lead sponsor of House Bill 4090, which 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. The training requirements include specific guidelines on threat assessment and police authority within the school environment.

The package, 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 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 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. 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 tip information 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. In addition to Harris’ training legislation, the plan would 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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