Education Committee takes holistic approach to critical issue

Committee Testimony

State Reps. Kelly Breen (D-Novi) and Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) give testimony in the House Education Committee on March 19, 2024, at the House Office Building in Lansing.

LANSING, Mich., March 19, 2024 — The House Education Committee heard testimony today from legislators and stakeholders on a number of school safety bills. The bipartisan bills will help improve school safety and provide better mental health support systems in educational environments across Michigan. Last year, House Dems prioritized school safety and mental health funding in the state government and education budgets, making significant and historic investments, and these bills serve to further the Democratic commitment to keep students safe and healthy.

“I was glad to have a committee hearing on these school safety bills today. I know a great deal of work has gone into getting these bills to a point that they were ready for a hearing. Keeping kids safe is a central priority for my colleagues and me. We understand that in order to improve school safety, we must address it from all angles,” said state Rep. Matt Koleszar (D-Plymouth), chair of the House Education Committee. “This legislation addresses various factors that go into school safety — such as better preparing schools and better supporting students. These policies can serve to  improve mental health and as a preventive measure. Last week, we held a remote committee hearing on mental health in schools; today, we held a hearing on the bills coming out of the bipartisan School Safety Task Force. We are going to keep the forward momentum going on this critical priority to make our schools safer for all students.”

The bills take a holistic approach to school safety. For instance, they will codify the School Safety and Mental Health Commission that was created in fiscal year 2022-23. Furthermore, the bills will make it easier for schools to react to tips received in the OK2Say program, standardize response terminology plans between schools and the police, and require schools to create behavioral threat assessment and management teams.

“Protecting our kids is one of the most important things that we can do as legislators,” said state Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), sponsor of House Bill 5549. “There are three main timeframes to focus on with regard to school safety — prevention, preparation and recovery. The work that has gone into this package focuses on policies that consider all three. For instance, the bill I sponsored addresses the area of preparation by helping to create a behavioral threat assessment and management team in schools. These teams will help to identify concerning behavior among students, as well as develop plans that will assist the students that are displaying those behaviors. I want to thank the lawmakers who have put so much attention and care into these bills; working closely with Rep. Meerman has been particularly beneficial during this process — much gratitude for collaborative efforts.”

“I am grateful for Reps. Breen and Koleszar for their commitment to this critical legislation,” said state Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), sponsor of HB 4089. “Rep. Breen has been my ally through this process, actively working with stakeholders to shape these bills and reaching across the aisle to make the package bipartisan. She played an important role in helping finalize the School Safety Task Force report last term, and her commitment has been steadfast ever since. I appreciate her work and collaboration. Every part of this package is valuable and, once enacted, the bills will work together to help support students across the state.

Bills in this package include the following:

  • HB 4089, sponsored by state Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville), would codify the School Safety and Mental Health Commission created in the fiscal year 22-23 budget..
  • HB 4092, sponsored by state Rep. Nancy DeBoer (R-Holland), requires that
  • tips related to a school district to the relevant intermediate school district and local law enforcement within 24 hours of receipt.
  • HB 4095, sponsored by state Rep. Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit), requires that public schools and nonpublic schools adopt and implement a standardized response terminology plan.
  • HB 4096, sponsored by state Rep. Ranjeev Puri (D-Canton), requires the Michigan State Police to establish a standardized response terminology plan.
  • HB 5549, sponsored by state Rep. Kelly Breen (D-Novi), requires that schools create behavioral threat assessment and management teams.