School safety plan finalized in Michigan Legislature
Lansing — The Michigan Legislature on Tuesday finalized a long-debated plan to improve school safety in the wake of fatal shootings in other states.
The package heading toward Gov. Rick Snyder's desk does not include any firearm regulations but would instead create an Office of School Safety, stiffen penalties for threats, require additional officer training and mandate development of school emergency plans.
Lawmakers previously approved $58 million in related funding for the current fiscal year, including $25 million in school safety grants.
The House and Senate on Tuesday gave final approval to bills that would create the new state Office of School Safety, require schools to develop an emergency operations plan and consult with law enforcement before major construction or building renovation plans.
The package would also create a new 10-year felony crime for a threat against students are teachers that includes an "overt" action with intent to carry out the threat. Another measure would amend the Michigan Open Meetings Act to allow school boards to discuss security planning in sessions that would be closed to the public.
Additional proposals approved by both chambers but awaiting a final "concurrence" vote in the House would require new and current police officers to complete active violence response training by 2020, create a new school safety commission to formulate recommendations and require the state to report certain crimes to the state.
The legislation would also extend the OK2Say hotline program created under term-limited Attorney General Bill Schuette that allows students to confidentially report potential self-harm or violence.
Michigan legislators spent nearly a year debating the bills and never took up a controversial plan to arm willing teachers. They also rejected calls from a coalition of law enforcement and school groups that had urged more funding specifically for armed guards.
The state police in October handed out $25 million in school safety grants approved by lawmakers, splitting up the money between 114 public school districts, 42 non-public schools, 22 charters and 22 intermediate school districts.
Demand outweighed supply, with schools requesting a combined $69 million to pay for school safety upgrades.
State police Director Kriste Kibbey Etue said the committee that reviewed requests gave priority to requests to help secure school “access points,” which she called one of the best and most cost-effective ways to improve security.