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State Board of Education Hears How MDE and Partners are Keeping Kids Safer in School

LANSING – Michigan Department of Education (MDE) and Michigan State Police (MSP) Office of School Safety officials shared with the State Board of Education today significant progress in protecting the physical and emotional safety of children in Michigan schools.

New gun safety laws, dramatic increases in funding for school safety and children’s mental health services, and training for educators are among the initiatives in Michigan to make schools safer.

“We need to do all that we can to protect the safety and mental well-being of our children,” said State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice. “We have made substantial progress in many ways over the last few years working with partners including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the Michigan Legislature, and Michigan State Police. We have made and must continue to make student safety a spending priority and a focus of state laws and school policies.”

Successes include:

  • New state funding for school safety and children’s mental health. State school aid funding for school safety and mental health went from none in fiscal year 2017, to $10 million in 2018 for school safety efforts only, to $465 million in 2024 for school safety and mental health combined.
  • An increase of more than 1,000 helping professionals – social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors, and nurses – in public schools over the last few years, largely as a result of the new funding.
  • New gun safety laws, including statutes that require safe storage and universal background checks and a law providing for “red flag” notifications to keep guns out of the hands of people who may harm themselves or others.

Presenting information at the State Board of Education meeting were: MDE Deputy Superintendent Dr. Diane Golzynski; Aimee Alaniz, director of the MDE Office of Health and Safety; Oakland School Superintendent Dr. Wanda Cook-Robinson; and Kim Root, section manager for the Michigan State Police Office of School Safety.

They discussed the importance of physical safety, emotional safety, and relational trust. Relational trust means that all members of a school community respect one another’s opinions, listen to each other, and show personal regard for everyone’s well-being.

While additional attention to the mental health of students is important, the presenters noted that the average person with mental health challenges is not a threat to the well-being of others.

Dr. Cook-Robinson from Oakland Schools shared lessons learned from the tragic mass shooting at Oxford High School in 2021, including that everyone has a role in school safety to various degrees and that both physical and psychological safety are critical aspects to school safety.

Root of the MSP Office of School Safety provided details about its ongoing Michigan School Safety Academy. Six two-day sessions are being held in locations throughout Michigan for K-12 school administrators, school safety liaison officers, mental health professionals, and school resource officers. Topics include childhood trauma, behavioral threat assessment and management, assessing digital threats, assessing school facilities for safety, and mental health first aid.

The board had previously passed school safety resolutions, and Dr. Rice and State Board of Education President Dr. Pamela Pugh have testified on behalf of the gun safety bills that are now law. A March 2023 resolution asked the legislature to approve additional funding for school mental health and safety and an October 2022 resolution urged passage of safer gun laws.

“The tragedies at Oxford and MSU in the last 2-1/2 years saddened us deeply in Michigan,” Dr. Rice said. “We all have our own thoughts on what we need to do to prevent school violence. Educators will continue to seek out best practices for protecting our students and staff, and legislators will continue to reflect upon potential statutory changes for the same purpose. Well-intentioned people may disagree on the best ways to keep students, staff, and communities safe, but we need to keep working hard on the issue.”

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