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Grand Rapids Public Schools hosting community safety forum June 28 | #schoolsaftey

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Grand Rapids Public Schools is holding a second community forum on Wednesday aimed at addressing school safety, planned in response to four separate incidents this past school year where students brought guns into school buildings.

The “Sound Minds, Safe Schools” event will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 28 at GRPS University, located at 1400 Fuller Ave. NE.

The forum will be centered around youth mental health and how it can impact school safety, according to a GRPS announcement.

The event is open to GRPS families, staff and community members who want to share their thoughts and questions surrounding mental health. School mental health experts will be at the event to share information and answer questions, district leaders say.

“School safety is about so much more than locked doors and cameras. We know that the mental health of our young people plays a critical role in the decisions they make,” the event announcement reads.

“(GRPS) is committed to meeting the needs of our scholars beyond reading, writing, and arithmetic. By teaching our children to care for their mental well-being, we not only safeguard our schools but also equip them with tools that will serve them for a lifetime.”

This is the second communitywide forum GRPS has hosted this spring to talk about school safety and gun violence. The first forum, held May 20, was scheduled after the third time a GRPS student brought a gun to school, on May 3.

The May 20 forum drew over 150 attendees who called for the district to increase school security and add more mental health experts districtwide.

GRPS has averted four tragedies involving guns in schools this year. The first two incidents both happened at Burton Middle School, where a student brought an unloaded gun in October and a second student brought a loaded gun in January.

Those two incidents led to a school meeting in February in which parents called for metal detectors that were added to the entrance this spring.

The third incident happened on May 3, when a 7-year-old brought a gun to Cesar E. Chavez Elementary School. A week later, on May 10, a third grader brought a loaded gun to Stocking Elementary School.

After the fourth incident, GRPS Superintendent Leadriane Roby instituted a temporary backpack ban for the remainder of the 2022-23 school year, in an effort to prevent any more students from bringing weapons to school. There was both support and criticism from families in response to the ban.

The GRPS Board of Education also passed a resolution on May 16 allowing Roby to start sending information home to families about how to store guns safely. The resolution declared gun violence as a public health crisis and asked city officials to support a similar ordinance and promote gun safety education.

On the last day of school, Roby issued a plea to district families to keep their guns stored securely over summer break.

“We have seen far too often the devastating consequences that can result from firearms getting into the hands of our young people,” Roby wrote in the June 9 message to families. “As we go into the summer months, many of our children will have more time at home and more opportunities to search and explore.”

“My ask is serious but simple: If you have guns in your home, please lock them up. It is absolutely critical that these weapons are kept away from our children.”

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