Senate approves school safety initiatives

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Thursday approved a plan to improve school safety initiatives throughout the state, said Sen. Peter MacGregor.

“Improving school security, preparedness and communication is vital to ensuring Michigan students have a safe place to learn,” said MacGregor, R-Rockford. “The bills approved by the Senate on Thursday will help ensure that safe environment by establishing a state Office of School Safety, improving the confidential OK2SAY program, and by leveraging law enforcement expertise to strengthen security in school buildings, among other important measures.”

The Senate’s school safety plan includes numerous improvements, including:

  • Requiring school officials to consult with law enforcement before constructing or renovating buildings;
  • Ensuring a school’s governing body provides the state police biannually with an emergency contact who would receive information submitted through the school safety hotline 24 hours a day, 365 days a year;
  • Creating the Office of School Safety within the state police to update school safety practices, offer training to school staff and oversee use of school safety grants;
  • Making sure school districts conduct a safety assessment with a local law enforcement agency for each school building by the 2019-2020 school year and at least every two years thereafter and require school districts to develop an emergency operations plan by Jan. 1, 2020;
  • Having schools anonymously report thwarted incidents of attempted acts of violence on school grounds or threats of violence made on or off school grounds; and
  • Developing statewide training standards for active-violence situations in schools.

The legislation is in addition to a budget agreement to dedicate $58 million toward school safety initiatives such as OK2SAY, securing schools, and mental health programs. MacGregor said he, Sen. Goeff Hansen and colleagues from the House of Representatives will be working on a sustainable school mental health initiative this summer.

OK2SAY is a student safety program that serves as an early warning system in Michigan’s schools to prevent tragedies before they occur by encouraging students to submit confidential tips to trained technicians regarding potential harm or threats.

The legislation now goes to the state House of Representatives for consideration.