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House School Safety Task Force unveils new legislation

desks in a classroom
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A bipartisan group of Michigan House lawmakers introduced legislation this week they say is designed to keep kids safer in schools.

The legislation reflects some of the recommendations of the House School Safety Task Force formed after November’s deadly shooting at Oxford High School.

Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) co-chairs the task force. He said the bills are an important step while the task force’s full report goes through its final stages.

“We are in the middle of that working with, frankly, our Democratic colleagues. We’re going to get eight signatures on it. Four Republicans, four Democrats,” Meerman said. He added he wanted to give time for everyone to feel comfortable with the group’s work.

Some proposed items in the new bills include the creation of a new School Safety and Mental Health Commission that would work on supporting at-risk students and overall mental wellbeing in schools.

A new state budget sent to the governor funds some of those priorities, including that commission. It also provides $168 million for school safety grants.

But it left out money for other things the task force had pushed for, like dedicated mental health and safety coordinator positions at the intermediate school district level.

Representative Kelly Breen (D-Novi) said she’s encouraged by the large amount of spending on mental health in the budget but disappointed about some cuts to earlier proposals.

“What I do worry about a little is that we put too much into certain buckets, taking it out of others. But then again this is money that we should be spending on mental health and our kids anyway,” she said.

Other suggestions that didn’t make it to the final version of the budget include funding for risk assessments in schools and for an internship grant program to encourage more people to become school mental health professionals.

Breen said she expects to see a future spending bill cover some of those unfunded proposals.

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