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Michigan House forms bipartisan task force to discuss school safety

Joshua Hoehne

Michigan lawmakers are forming a bipartisan panel to consider school safety ideas.

The new taskforce in the state House comes in response to November’s deadly shooting at Oxford High School.

Membership of the new task force, first reported in the Detroit News, includes: Rep. Gary Eisen (R-Saint Clair Township), Rep. Pamela Hornberger (R-Chesterfield), Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), Rep. Scott VanSingel (R-Grant), Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), Rep. Sara Cambensy (D-Marquette), Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton), and Rep. Terry Sabo (D-Muskegon).

Meerman said schools have gotten better at keeping outside threats from getting in.

“I think that the part we have missed is on the school mental health side. The line between a student committing suicide and harming other students is very narrow and they’re sometimes interchanged,” he said.

Meerman predicts a final report from the committee is likely months away. But some suggestions, like beefing up school mental health resources, are “lower-hanging fruit” that could come relatively quickly.

Ultimately, Meerman said every policy option is on the table for discussion.

“There are very wide differences of opinion on what it takes to keep kids safe in school. And there are things on the left and things on the right that, at the end of the day, aren’t going to get done,” Meerman said. He’s focusing on getting school children mental health support as a way of preventing more incidents.

Meanwhile, the debate over gun control is an issue sure to rise as lawmakers discuss how to keep further violence from happening.

Breen said she approaches that conversation with two assumptions.

“First of all, I assume that everybody loves this country and this state just as much as I do. And I also assume nobody wants anybody else to get shot. And if you start with that, assume everybody is going into this with the right intentions, you can make a lot of ground,” she said.

Though Breen said it’s too early to tell what the task force plans to accomplish once it meets. But there some clear need areas.

“We don’t have enough school psychologists, we don’t have enough social workers, and we don’t have enough counselors,” Breen said.

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