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Plan: Protect Students With More School Police, Counselors

school classroom
File Photo
East Lansing High School science teacher Brad Baryo helps a student. Baryo and other educators say state funding cuts will increase class sizes and limit one-on-one help. photo: Mark Bashore/WKAR

Michigan's law enforcement and education leaders called Thursday for the Legislature to spend $100 million a year to staff schools with more police and counselors in light of last month's massacre at a Florida high school.

They also asked for $20 million in state funding annually to harden schools' security infrastructure and proposed making it mandatory that the security of every school building in the state be assessed at least once a year during walkthroughs by officers.

"School shootings and bomb threats dominate the headlines. Violence is followed by mourning, outrage, and calls for reform — before the cycle repeats itself, without any meaningful change. Michigan law enforcement and Michigan school leaders agree — enough is enough. It's time for change," Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth said.

The plan makes no mention of tighter gun restrictions or gun-related measures that have been floated in the Republican-controlled Legislature such as arming teachers or allowing courts to order the temporary seizure of guns from people showing signs of mental distress or violence.

Those supporting the plan — include the state's sheriffs, police chiefs, prosecutors, school boards and groups representing administrators, psychologists, social workers and counselors who work inside schools — said they are focused on policy that is achievable politically.

"Giving schools the resources needed to update security in school buildings or putting more sheriffs and police on school property will help to keep our children safe — and prevent tragedies before they happen," said Michael Rochholz, president of the Michigan Association of School Boards.

Under the proposal, the state would create a $100 million grant program, which schools could use to embed 500 more "resource officers" — local police officers and sheriff's deputies — inside schools. Half of the money also could be used to place an unspecified number of counselors and mental health professionals at schools.

Proponents said Michigan has roughly one school counselor for every 750 students, one school social worker for every 1,000 students and one school psychologist for every 4,800 students — well below recommended levels.

Under the plan, all threats against schools would have to be reported to law enforcement, and there would be a new graduated penalty range for those who threaten schools.

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