School Safety Task Force issues final report
After months of meeting, the Michigan House School Safety Task Force’s final report is out.
The 12-page document breaks up its focus areas to prevention, mitigation and response measures.
Recommendations on prevention focus on creating threat assessment teams, providing multi-tiered mental health support, and adding social-emotional learning to the curriculum.
“[Social-emotional learning] has been shown to have numerous long term positive impacts on children’s development, including improved socialization, helping them develop long term and meaningful friendships, and reducing the number of students who are involved in acts of physically aggressive behavior,” the report reads.
The group was formed in response to last year’s deadly shooting at Oxford High School.
In the time since, the task force has advocated for several items in the current state budget to provide more resources to schools.
But many bills its members introduced didn’t move forward this session.
Representative Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) co-chairs the task force. He predicts those policies will come up again next year.
“Frankly it is a lot easier to take those drafts and introduce them next year and there has been work done on them already. Just in the process that it took to get to the point we’re at,” Meerman said.
He added having the bills introduced once before allows schools, interest groups, and other stakeholders to join the conversation.
The report also lists six consensus recommendations for schools to think about.
Those include ideas like keeping lockdown kits and ladders for upper level rooms, installing classroom cameras, and reducing barriers to becoming a school mental health professional.
But there are also six recommendations that the group's members could not all agree on. Those all deal with gun policies and range from encouraging safe gun storage to eliminating gun-free zones in schools.
Meerman said he understands a lot of people had expectations from the task force on the topic.
“We had those discussions and we had hours of discussion, multiple hours of discussion on that subject. And we had members on the committee advocating to others from different points of that,” he said.
Ultimately, he hopes the conversation around safety won’t stop with Wednesday’s report.
The group pushed for a $2 million budget item to fund a new School Safety and Mental Health Commission.
“The report you’re seeing is from a specific task force put together by the Speaker of the House. That one is one I hope to see continue to run for 10 and 20 and more years,” Meerman said.
The commission consists of members representing parents, the state police, the state health department, the state Department of Education and others.