Michigan lawmakers look to make schools safer with legislation

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Michigan lawmakers are hard at work to make schools safer for students and teachers. Photo: Colin Donnelly.

Over the past few months, Michigan lawmakers have been hard at work, even across the aisle, in an effort to make schools safer.

In early June, a package containing seven bills focusing on school safety was passed in the Senate.  The bills target a wide range of topics, including inspecting new school buildings or renovations to existing buildings, developing emergency operations plans for every school and increasing funding to school resource officers and mental health counselors.

Senate Bill 983, which was passed June 7, would require school districts to work with law enforcement to conduct a review of the school’s emergency operations plan.  Each school would have its own plan should a potentially dangerous event occur, including threats of school violence and attacks, bomb threats, fires, intruders and several others.

“This is a broad-reaching plan that will help improve security, training and communication in our schools to help prepare and protect those within,” Sen. Marty Knollenberg, R-Troy, the bill’s sponsor, said.

School districts would be required to follow the rules of the bill by the 2019-2020 school year and at least every two years thereafter.

In addition to the Senate, members of the House are also taking action.  Three bills were introduced earlier this month as part of the plan to increase school safety, focusing on the seriousness of school threats, creating new grants for school resource officers and mandating some to report suspected threats against schools.

Since the February shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Michigan has found itself as one of the top five states when it comes to school threats.

Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, is the sponsor of HB 5942 which would make threatening violence against schools a more serious crime.  The bill would make threatening to use a firearm, explosive or other dangerous weapon a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison and a $1,000 fine. Should someone attempt to turn that threat into action, they would face 10 years imprisonment and a $20,000 fine.

“Right now, prosecutors can either charge someone with a 20-year felony for terrorism or a 93-day misdemeanor for terrorism when a threat is made against a school,” LaFave said. “By establishing a tiered option, we’ll give prosecutors the tools needed to make the punishment fit the crime.”

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