Zorn, Dundee superintendent testify on school safety bill

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn and Dundee Community Schools Superintendent Edward Manuszak told the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday about the need to ensure that authorities can pass along potential threats to Michigan schools at any time.

“Michigan’s OK2SAY program is a 24-hour-a-day hotline that gives students a safe and confidential way to report suspicious or threatening behavior,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “The program has done a fantastic job in helping protect Michigan students and save lives.”

Students can report tips by phone, text message, and email, and through a website or an app. In 2017, the program received 4,605 tips, an increase of 37 percent from 2016. In April, it received 601 tips from Michigan students — bringing the total number of tips for 2018 to 2,746 and the overall total for the program to 13,480.

“In real time, OK2SAY connects tip providers to the state police, who assess the situation and then refer the information to the appropriate school officials or law enforcement,” Zorn said. “However, sometimes threats to students’ safety occur outside of school hours. My legislation would ensure that at least one school official is available to receive information about threats at any time so he or she can take any necessary action to prevent a tragedy.”

Senate Bill 991 would require, at least every two years, a governing body of a school to provide the state police with the current emergency contact information for a school official who would receive information submitted through the state school safety hotline — and any accompanying analysis of a potential threat — 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

“This bill is part of a comprehensive Senate effort to enact commonsense, effective solutions to keep our students safe,” Zorn said.

The Senate school safety package includes SB 959, Zorn’s legislation to require the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to develop statewide training standards for active-shooter situations in schools. The training would be required to at least include scenario-based instruction involving 360-degree security, formation training, building entry and coordination of rescue and first responder teams.

“Training and preparation can save lives,” Zorn said. “When it comes to protecting our schools, it is critical that students, school staff and law enforcement all know what to do to prevent a tragedy and how to respond if a situation occurs.”

Additional Senate school safety legislative measures include:
SB 982 to create the Office of School Safety within the state police to update school safety practices, offer training to school staff and oversee use of school safety grants;
SB 983 to require school districts to conduct a safety assessment with a local law enforcement agency for each school building by the 2019-2020 school year and at least every two years thereafter and require school districts to develop an emergency operations plan by Jan. 1, 2020;
SB 957 to eliminate the sunset on the OK2SAY program;
SB 958 to require schools to anonymously report thwarted incidents of attempted acts of violence on school grounds or threats of violence made on or off school grounds; and
SB 990 to require schools to work with local law enforcement on new construction or upgrades to school buildings.

“These legislative reforms are on top of a Senate-passed boost in current-year funding to make critical school safety improvements and help prevent school tragedies,” Zorn said. “Senate Bill 601 would provide $15 million for grants for schools to make vital school security enhancements and $3 million for a statewide school emergency notification system that would be available to all Michigan schools.

“It also features $500,000 to help raise student awareness of OK2SAY by doubling the promotion of the initiative.”


Editor’s note: The above photograph is available by clicking on the image or by visiting www.SenatorDaleZorn.com/Photowire.