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School Social Workers Unveil School Safety Reform Plan

Thursday, March 29, 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Allan Wachendorfer
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Law enforcement, school groups ask legislature for $120M to make schools safer

LANSING, MI -- Michigan schools and law enforcement groups are banding together to ask lawmakers for law changes and grant programs they say would bolster school safety in Michigan in the wake of national school shootings.

As far as threats to schools go, "We deal with it every single day, almost every single day, in law enforcement," said Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth.

The plan he and others are proposing calls for a new $100 million grant program for personnel that will fund things like more school resource officers working in school facilities and more mental health progressions to identify problems early. They're also calling for a $20 million grant program for safety infrastructure designed to secure buildings and to require mandatory reporting of threats.

The Michigan Sheriffs Association, Michigan Association of School Boards, Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Association of School Administrators, Michigan Association of School Psychologists, Michigan School Counselor Association, Prosecuting Attorneys Assocation of Michigan and Michigan Association of School Social Workers are supporting what they dub the "Michigan School Safety Reform Plan."

Michigan's elected officials are already mulling several proposals in the wake of the following the Florida school shooting that killed 17. One proposal would arm teachers; House Speaker Tom Leonard, R-DeWitt, is focused on mental health; and Gov. Rick Snyder has expressed an interest in a 'red flag' law that would allow police to temporarily seize firearms from somebody deemed a threat.

 

But the coalition today explicitly directed its focus away from guns and toward bipartisan school safety solutions, said Michigan Sheriffs Association CEO and Executive Director Blaine Koops.

"Everyone in this group has been asked to react to legislation," Koops said. But once the coalition got together on this they decided they needed a proactive, forward-looking proposal, he said.

They expect broad, bipartisan support for the proposal, much of which is based on things that already work across the state.

Grand Ledge Police Chief Martin Underhill said they've had a full-time School Resource Officer in schools there since 1997. Officers in the position haven't just dealt with crime, they've identified issues that could lead to it. After their installation, police calls to schools in the area drastically declined.

"It is a situation that all schools should have, and could have with proper funding," Underhill said.

Lansing Public Schools Superintendent Yvonne Caamal Canul said the district has school resource officers but could use more mental health professionals. She said school systems would ideally have one school psychologist for every 1,000 students, but Michigan's ratio is more like one to 4,800.

 

"We know many shooters often show signs of trouble, long before an attack -- and school mental health professionals are the first line of defense, Caamal Canul said.

She said mental health is not an urban issue and reaches into every corner of the state.

The next step for the coalition is to seek support from lawmakers who may be willing to introduce legislation on the plan, Koops said.


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