2018-04-18 / Editorial

School safety plan a good start in right direction

Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday unveiled a plan to phasein new school safety initiatives designed to help ensure students can focus on growing and learning rather than being worried about violence in school.

The proposal was developed in the wake of the shooting massacre at a Florida high school in February and at a time the state has received record-high tips to OK2SAY, Michigan’s confidential tip line for students.

On Sunday, The County Press reported that North Branch Area Schools, at no cost to the district for the next two months, will use a private security service to put an armed guard at the high school while it considers long-term plans to heighten security in the district.

“Recent tragedies taking place in schools nationwide have escalated emotions and driven some people to entrench upon a single position. But there is no one simple solution to solve this terrible problem and prevent it from ever happening again,” said Snyder. “A multifaceted approach is the best way we can ensure stable learning environments for Michigan’s students while simultaneously protecting them.”

In cooperation with his legislative partners, Snyder has been working to learn about best practices nationwide in dealing with the threat of violence in schools in many different forms. Snyder has enlisted the help of the departments of State Police, Education, and Health and Human Services to help find ways to strengthen Michigan’s existing practices and propose new solutions.

Snyder’s plan is divided into four components: preparation, intervention, response and recovery.

He urges schools to develop comprehensive school safety plans, including behavioral health policies, student reporting mechanisms, as well as emergency response and building safety requirements. Snyder wants schools to be audited and submit incident reports to law enforcement.

Snyder also proposes $20 million for immediate and long-term, comprehensive improvements to school facilities; $2 million to secure schools that require basic security upgrades, such as functioning, locking doors; and $18 million in fiscal year 2019 for school safety grants to strengthen buildings, improve lock systems, and upgrade communications to be prepared for emergencies.

On the intervention front, Snyder wants to ensure school teachers, administrators, other school personnel, and families have the requisite training to identify when students are in need of mental or emotional counseling and support. He also calls to pilot a $2 million grant program this year in which Intermediate School Districts can apply for a competitive grant for behavioral assessment training for their administrative and academic teams. Snyder also wants to triple the funding for exposure of the OK2Say program and requiring student-led awareness programs, as well as resources to address the increasing volume of tips from students.

On response, he directs the Michigan Council on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to create a tiered training for school resource officers, and he directs MCOLES to develop a second, advanced standard for active violence response training into the curriculum for certified police officers.

To help recovery, he proposes communities work with local and state health agencies to ensure they are prepared to provide emergency counseling services to all those affected in an active violence situation. He also seeks the state to provide guidance on training for teachers, parents, and administrators to identify when students and others might need help accessing resources after an event has occurred.

Though Snyder’s proposed $20 million for security enhancements would align with what law enforcement and education leaders have suggested, he did not embrace their call to spend an additional $100 million to add resource officers and counselors to understaffed schools. Senate Democrats last week proposed spending $50 million on security and $50 million hiring more counselors, social workers and resource officers — armed local police and sheriff’s deputies embedded in school districts.

We commend Snyder for recommending additional resources to assist Lapeer County school districts improve security within their buildings, and hope Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature can put aside their political differences to find common ground to do what is right for our children.

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