Michigan House Republicans
Rep. Harris: House should advance school safety, mental health legislation
RELEASE|February 13, 2024
Contact: Mike Harris

State Rep. Mike Harris, a retired Waterford police sergeant, on Tuesday called for the House of Representatives to approve the bipartisan school safety and mental health plan introduced a year ago.

The legislation resulted from a bipartisan task force that House Republicans created after the Oxford school shooting in 2021. The task force issued its recommendations in 2022 after thoroughly reviewing expert input from law enforcement officers, educators, mental health professionals, and parents. Harris and his colleagues reintroduced the bills again on Feb. 14, 2023, which happened to be the day after the shooting at Michigan State University.

“Keeping Michiganders safe is the paramount duty of our state government, especially when it comes to young people in our schools,” said Harris, R-Waterford. “After the Oxford tragedy, Republicans and Democrats came together with experts to prepare a comprehensive, statewide strategy to protect our classrooms and promote student mental health. Our bipartisan plan will prepare school leaders to keep kids safe, ensure efficient communication between schools and law enforcement, and deliver confidential OK2SAY tips to the appropriate authorities. My colleagues and I introduced this plan again a year ago, and the House should seize the opportunity to keep our students safe and well.”

In the year since lawmakers introduced the plan, the bills have not yet received a hearing in the House Education Committee. This Monday, House Republicans included the package in a list of bills they would like brought up for a vote in a letter to the speaker of the House.

House Bills 4088-4100 are designed to organize a unified approach to school safety and student mental health through enhanced communication, training, personnel, and more. The plan addresses specific problems identified by the task force: tips submitted to the OK2SAY system not getting to law enforcement officers, an insufficient focus on mental health at schools, a lack of communication between school mental health experts and school resource officers, no active threat training for some school staff, and inconsistent terminology that can lead to poor communication among first responders and police officers from different departments.

To address these problems, 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 a safety and security coordinator and a 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 tips 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. The plan 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. It would also 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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