Student group refocuses school safety efforts

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The plan is modeled on legislation crafted by Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, and Rep. Daniel Hernandez, D-Tucson, which would have directed both Hoffman’s agency and local school boards to come up with plans to deal with students with mental health problems who may be at risk of killing or injuring their classmates.

McGee’s bill got out of the Senate but was never heard in the House; the Hernandez version cleared two House committees only to be quashed when Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, refused to hear it in the House Rules Committee which he chairs.

Hoffman figures she has the power to bring together diverse interests, with or without legislative authorization, to at least determine what are the problems and the needs and ways that school boards can adopt policies to prevent violence.

Brophy McGee said some of that can be addressed with school design, things like limiting the number of entrances where strangers can get onto campus or into a building.

“But today, more than ever, beyond brick-and-mortar decisions, there are other factors, things that can’t be seen at first glance but can be felt when one walks onto a school campus,” she said.

“It’s the school culture which must be built with as much care as the school itself,” Brophy McGee continued. “How do we build a positive school culture that strongly deals with such issues as bullying and cyberbullying?”

Brophy McGee said she supports the decision of the students to refocus their efforts on something other than weapons and access to them.

“At the end of the day, the problem is mental health, whether the weapon chosen is a gun, a knife or something else,” she said.