GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The Michigan Legislature is considering a number of chances for schools and police agencies aimed at tightening the belt on school safety.
Last week, two bills addressing school security passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee. House Bill 5852 would create new active-shooter training requirements for police. House Bill 5851 would mandate that school administrators report all threats and attempted violence to state police.
“School safety has really been moved to the top of the education agenda,” Larry Johnson, assistant superintendent and executive director of public safety at Grand Rapids Public Schools, said.
Johnson was a part of the work groups that hammered out several school safety recommendations for state lawmakers.
“There’s two types of districts: districts that are coming out of a crisis or one that’s getting ready to go into a crisis,” Johnson said. “Any district is prone to a school safety incident of any magnitude.”
Under HB 5851, schools would report all threats made against the school, staff or students. Administrators would share what happened and how the attempt or threat was prevented. Michigan State Police would compile all the submitted information annually for statewide distribution.
“Having the opportunity to flesh out a lot of the incidents around the state and view some of the things that have occurred, I think it’s going to put all of our districts in a better position in the future,” Johnson said.
Schools who fail to report would forfeit their shot at grants from the state.
“I’m hopeful that districts will not think that by reporting incidents, they won’t get a grant,” Johnson told 24 Hour News 8.
Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young supports keeping records of threats.
“Knowledge is power,” she said.
She views school safety as a job shared by school administrators and police.
“We’ve had multiple somewhat violent threats that have been thwarted because our school resource officer was there. They had a relationship. Somebody felt comfortable talking to them about it,” the sheriff said.
She said that as the set of school safety bills takes shape, she hopes local law enforcement’s voice isn’t overshadowed.
A third bill, HB 5828, aims to create a school safety commission that would include a law enforcement representative, a teacher representative, a school administrator and a mental health professional, among others. All of the members would be appointed by the governor.
“It’s really difficult for something like that to be done on a statewide board because they don’t have real-life information of what’s going on today in that school district, (or) today in that community and what might cause a risk,” LaJoye-Young said.
She thinks that committee should include more local law enforcement agencies.
HB 5828 bill has passed the House and a Senate committee and is now headed to the Senate floor for a vote.