Michigan’s State Board of Education on Tuesday dismissed a school safety proposal calling for stricter training requirements for public school staff to help prevent gun violence, along with greater accountability for school employees and administrators for safety lapses.
But members who opposed the resolution signaled that they’re still committed to taking steps to improve school safety and are open to taking up the proposal later.
The proposal came from Republican board member Nikki Snyder in response to the release last month of an independent report on the 2021 mass shooting at Oxford High School, where a 15-year-old killed four students and injured seven others. The report found multiple failures by school officials to take steps to prevent the killings.
Snyder’s proposed resolution called for state laws requiring all school administrators and educators to receive behavioral threat assessment and management training, with the Michigan Department of Education enforcing compliance. It also called for MDE to check current student codes of conduct to make sure they align with the federal policies on notifying school resource officers of students who may pose a threat of violence.
Snyder’s proposal also called for removing any liability shield for school personnel and administrators who failed to report potential threats.
“We need to lead now in making sure this is what we expect,” Snyder said during the board meeting.
The board voted 5-3 against adding the resolution to its agenda. Republican member Tom McMillan, and board President Pamela Pugh, a Democrat, voted with Snyder.
Other members of the board agreed with Snyder that school safety is an urgent priority for the board but said they believed the proposal needed more research and input from officials before the board could consider it.
“We definitely are not voting this down and saying we don’t want to do anything with it,” said board member Tiffany Tilley, a Democrat. “We are saying we need more time. We need to make sure there is capacity to get the program, as well as MDE’s capacity to audit.”
Tilley said she would also like to work with MDE to pass additional proactive resolutions on school safety.
“There is no question that school safety is extremely important, and you’re absolutely right that this is the time to lead,” Democratic board member Judy Pritchett told Snyder. “I believe this board has been doing that.”
She cited the board’s October 2022 Resolution on Safer School Environments, which urged lawmakers to adopt Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s request for funding to support school safety and children’s mental health, as well as stronger gun safety laws.
That resolution did not recommend any new requirements in state law.
Snyder and McMillan said they voted against that resolution because it fell short of needed action.
The latest resolution “is about the requirement of that training — not the suggestion that it’s a fancy thought or a good idea,” Synder said.
Snyder added she would support amending the previously passed resolution with what she proposed.
She called the board’s choice to not take up the resolution on Tuesday “disgusting.”
“What we could do today is discuss this resolution, we could come to an agreement, and we could make a statement and lead,” she said. “And then we could work together on building the capacity to make sure students are safe and schools are safe. But you’re choosing not to do that.”
Pugh said she agrees there was room for the board to consider the resolution, but disputed the idea that it has not addressed the gun violence issue urgently enough.
“We’ve acted, and we will continue to provide guidance and support through MDE to our schools,” Pugh said.
“There are those of us who, for a long time, have been acting in urgency,” she said. “So, this resolution falls short of that urgency. We had an opportunity to give that input — and have — a year ago and have continued to work for the safety and healthy environment of children.”
Hannah Dellinger is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit covering K-12 education. Contact Hannah at firstname.lastname@example.org.