Schools are required by law to have fire drills, tornado drills and lockdown drills in case of an intruder, but the law has not been enforced in Michigan.
The proposed legislation would penalize schools if they fail to continually review their safety procedures and complete all mandatory drills. The Department of Education would withhold 5 percent of available state funding from any district that fails to properly report, placing that money in escrow until the school district complies.
It’s so easy to operate under the assumption that it won’t happen here. Schools in Oklahoma recently destroyed by a tornado probably felt that way — as did school officials in Newtown, Conn., before a young gunman killed 20 children and six adults late last year.
We hope and pray such tragedies never occur in our community, but we need to be prepared.
The new legislation is being proposed by state Sen. John Proos, R-St. Joseph, who said a scary scenario ended in tragedy earlier this month in Dowagiac. A teen wielding a gun outside of the public middle school walked into a wooded area and committed suicide.
But the incident had a silver lining, according to Proos: It proved the importance of school safety drills.
"We learned in Dowagiac that those drills were absolutely crucial to effectively locking down the school building, setting up a perimeter with law enforcement, and ensuring the safety and security of our kids," Proos said last week.
The new legislation comes as a statewide team assembled by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, in the wake of last year's tragic shooting in Newtown, continues to develop a comprehensive school safety plan.
Michigan law currently requires all K-12 schools in the state to complete six fire drills, two lockdown drills and two tornado drills each year.
But the law, hailed as a national model when passed in 2006, is weak in practice. Schools must document the drills, but they aren't required to send the reports anywhere. The state doesn't check for compliance, and neither do local emergency coordinators.
"It seems like it's the least we can do, because the safety of our kids is paramount," Proos said.
We wholeheartedly agree.
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