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Michigan school safety bills stalled: ‘It’s inexcusable,’ Oxford dad says | #schoolsaftey


  • Legislation to set policies around school safety has languished for two years
  • Critics, including Republicans, blame politics for the delays
  • Democrats and school officials say the Legislature has done plenty, allocating hundreds of millions of dollars for safety

LANSING — Legislation to improve school safety introduced after the mass shooting at Oxford High School has languished for nearly two years, and some say politics is overshadowing policy.

Ask Democrats involved in the effort, and they’ll say the safety protocol bills need fine-tuning. Ask Republicans, and they say they’re concerned some of the bills won’t move because this is an election year. 

Ask Steve St. Juliana, and he’ll ask, “does the word ridiculous apply?”

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“They’re taking years, literally years, to react to protecting our children,” St. Juliana, whose daughter Hana was one of four students killed during the Oxford High School shooting in 2021, told Bridge Michigan. “I think it’s inexcusable.” 

The debate comes after the state has dedicated more than $500 million for school safety and mental health resources since 2022. The stalled bipartisan package would outline best policies and practices for how to use those funds.

Among other things, the dozen-bill package would outline safety and security training requirements for all security personnel, require tips sent to the OK2Say student safety program be forwarded to authorities within 24 hours, require each intermediate district to employ at least one emergency and safety manager as well as at least one mental health coordinator.

The bills were introduced in 2022, but never made it far in the legislative process.  Reintroduced in February 2023, the package has not received a hearing.

State Rep. Kelly Breen, D-Novi, said a hearing is likely “sometime before spring break,” which begins March 25.

She has led the charge on school safety since 2021 with Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville. Together, the pair have served as co-chairs of the bipartisan School Safety Task Force.

Meerman said he worries that stalling the package is a way to punish “Republican vulnerables” whose districts are competitive in an election year.

He told Bridge he is concerned about the prospects of bills sponsored by Republican Reps. Donni Steele of Orion Township and Kathy Schmaltz of Jackson.

Steele is sponsoring a bill to require contact information for the OK2Say student safety tip line be listed on student ID cards. Schmaltz’s bill would require districts to adopt a school emergency plan for each building within their district and update them every three years after July 1, 2025.

“I’m not saying that Republicans haven’t done the same thing – pot calling the kettle black, whatever you want to call it,” Meerman said, “but I’m concerned that those two bills could get left behind.”

The cost of school safety

In the past several years, districts have competed for state grants to purchase security technology and equipment

After the Oxford shooting in late 2021, lawmakers the next summer approved additional state funding for school safety, including $15 million for safety assessments and $12.5 million for comprehensive maps of school buildings to help law enforcement. 

“The Republican notion that we have done nothing about school safety is absurd,” said Rep. Matt Koleszar, D-Plymouth, chair of the House Education Committee.

In 2022, lawmakers approved $168 million for training and safety equipment such as cameras, door blocks, hardened vestibules, window screens, buzzer systems and software that detects guns on existing cameras.

The most recent budget signed includes $328 million “for activities to improve student mental health and improve student safety.” Schools are expected to use at least half on mental health, but they are able to use the money to purchase security technology. 

The budget also includes $3 million for a firearm detection software

That approach arguably does the most good, said the K-12 Alliance of Michigan Executive Director Robert McCann, whose group represents 123 school districts. 

While he said pieces of the Oxford package could be helpful, “the best solutions for any school building or district, and the safety of the students there, is going to be done at the local level.”

“The solution to this is to ensure there is long-term funding and making sure that schools have access to it, without restriction, so that they can be implementing things at the local level,” McCann said.

In Williamston Community Schools outside Lansing, Superintendent Adam Spina told Bridge his district has reviewed state police guidance on threat assessments, reviewed what other states do, worked closely with mental health workers and school resource officers and collaborated with districts on threat assessment protocols.

“We’re not waiting for the state to come out with a law about threat assessment, or systems for students to report a potential threat,” Spina said.

Where legislation comes in

Breen, the Novi Democrat, told Bridge the legislation before the House Education Committee is meant to serve as a blueprint for schools. That required extensive feedback, she said.

“The number of stakeholders that are involved is astronomical, as you might imagine,” she said. “Not just organizations, but parents – especially parents that we’ve talked to from Oxford, Parkland, Sandy Hook. … We’re trying to be purposeful, because this isn’t something we can play around with.”

Meerman said the time for gathering further feedback is long over. 

While he said he appreciates Breen’s dedication, calling her a “good partner,” Meerman also said he wished “these bills were in law already.”

“Those parents watching all this from the outside, I don’t blame them for being absolutely frustrated,” he said. “They have every reason to be.”

There’s frustration among his fellow Republicans. Rep. Jaime Greene of Richmond, the ranking Republican on the House Education Committee, attempted to force a March 5 hearing on the package but was unsuccessful.

“The people we represent want us to do something to improve the safety of Michigan schools,” Greene said in a statement. “We have a well-thought-out, bipartisan plan with broad support and the chair of our committee will not hold a hearing to get the ball rolling.”





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