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Michigan House forms bipartisan task force to discuss school safety

Students hold candles during a prayer vigil after the shootings at Oxford High School on Tuesday in Oxford, Mich.
Jake May
The Flint Journal via AP
Students hold candles during a prayer vigil after the shootings at Oxford High School on Tuesday in Oxford, Mich.

Michigan lawmakers have begun forming a bipartisan panel to consider school safety ideas in response to November’s deadly shooting at Oxford High School.

Membership in the new House task force, first reported in the Detroit News, is evenly split between the two major political parties, with four Republicans and four Democrats.

One of the Republican members, Rep. Luke Meerman of Coopersville, said schools have gotten better at keeping outside threats from getting in. But he said that doesn’t address threats from inside the schools.

“I think that the part we have missed is on the school mental health side. The line between a student committing suicide and harming other students is very narrow and they’re sometimes interchanged,” he said.

Meerman predicted a final report from the committee is likely months away, but he said some suggestions, like beefing up school mental health resources, were “lower-hanging fruit” that could much sooner.

Ultimately, Meerman said every policy option is on the table for discussion.

“There are very wide differences of opinion on what it takes to keep kids safe in school, and there are things on the left and things on the right that, at the end of the day, aren’t going to get done,” Meerman said.

Meanwhile, Democratic Rep. Kelly Breen of Novi said she would approach the debate gun safety with two assumptions.

“First of all, I assume that everybody loves this country and this state just as much as I do,” she said. “I also assume nobody wants anybody else to get shot.

“If you start with that, assume everybody is going into this with the right intentions, you can make a lot of ground,” Breen said.

Though she said it’s too early to tell what the task force plans to accomplish once it meets, Breen said there some clear areas of need.

“We don’t have enough school psychologists, we don’t have enough social workers, and we don’t have enough counselors,” she said.