LANSING (AP) – Michigan laws meant to improve safety at schools are routinely ignored and state officials don’t know the scope of the problem, according to the results of a two-month investigation published Monday.
Disaster drills aren’t being done, or are not done enough times or early enough in the school year to make much of a difference, MLive.com found. Mandatory records are either incomplete or missing.
“It ought to be discussed what’s occurring here, so there is some way we perform the oversight that we are expected to do as part of being elected,” said state Sen. Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, who co-sponsored a law requiring lockdown drills.
Some principals and superintendents were ignorant of the laws’ requirements or found them inconvenient, MLive.com said. The findings come as officials await results of a school safety review ordered by Gov. Rick Snyder after December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn.
For Michigan schools with students in kindergarten through 12th grade, the state requires six fire drills, two lockdown drills and two tornado drills. Some of the drills must be done during recess, lunch or another time when students aren’t in class.
Laws passed in 2006 are weak in practice, MLive.com found. Schools must document the drills but don’t have to send the information anywhere. The state doesn’t check for compliance and local emergency coordinators don’t have to check either.
For its review, MLive.com examined thousands of documents at more than 400 schools across Michigan to check compliance over the past two years. Some schools could not document that they did all or any of the drills. Some said drills took place on days when schools were closed.
Schools in Grand Rapids, Midland and elsewhere reported doing drills on Saturdays or Sundays. A Flint high school recorded doing one during spring break. A Royal Oak middle school submitted a drill record for a date that had not yet occurred, also a Saturday.
Officials on those districts blamed clerical errors.
For the state’s review, the governor has asked a number of departments, along with law enforcement and court officials, for recommendations to address safety gaps. The review is to include best practices and policies of safe school plans across Michigan.
This month, Michigan State Police officials will meet to begin reviewing what to recommend.
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