U-M, state of Michigan will launch Michigan School Safety Initiative

June 1, 2023
Written By:
Kate Barnes, Office of the Vice President for Research
Conceptual image of students filing into a school building. Image credit: Nicole Smith, made with Midjourney

The University of Michigan Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention and the state of Michigan have finalized a $1 million contract to create a statewide initiative designed to enhance school safety and prevent school violence, including school shootings.

The Michigan School Safety Initiative will be available to all K-12 schools in the state, providing training and assistance to district leadership and staff regarding evidence-based best practices.

About 1.4 million students are enrolled across nearly 900 Michigan public schools, and state officials have prioritized the development of a central resource that can provide locally relevant training and assistance.

U-M professors Justin Heinze and Marc Zimmerman will lead the initiative, which is based at the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention. Launched as a presidential initiative in 2019, the institute fosters collaboration among U-M researchers and external stakeholders with the goal of generating knowledge and advancing solutions that decrease firearm injury across the United States.

State support will allow U-M teams to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of Michigan schools, evaluate the effectiveness of existing school safety actions and convene a Michigan-specific school safety advisory board.

Faculty and staff also will organize a statewide conference to provide training and education on best practices and evidence-based initiatives, and disseminate evidence-based tools and resources to schools, districts and other school safety professionals across Michigan.

“In the past decade, we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of school shootings in the U.S., with the highest number of events recorded in the past three years,” said Heinze, associate professor of health behavior and health education at the U-M School of Public Health and director of the Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention’s School Safety Section.

He says Michigan schools implement a wide variety of school safety strategies, including restorative practices, school climate promotion, behavioral threat assessment, active shooter training, door lock policies, school resource officers, anti-bullying programming, reporting systems, video cameras and monitoring systems.

“Part of our role is to promote awareness and selection of evidence-based safety practices that will fit schools’ specific needs and contexts, but also be a resource for the implementation support and capacity building we know can benefit schools and help sustain their activities in the long run,” Heinze said.

The initiative also will assist in tailoring and implementing locally relevant school safety strategies and help develop online training materials to ensure equitable access. Technical assistance teams will be available to support districts that are seeking assistance with the evaluation of safety strategy best practices for schools.

“We are privileged to assist the state in launching and leading this effort to enhance safety in Michigan schools,” said Zimmerman, co-director of the institute and the Marshall H. Becker Collegiate Professor of Public Health.

“We look forward to working with state officials, school partners, parents and students to help make Michigan schools safe spaces for learning and positive development. We will work with our partners to provide tailored, evidence-based strategies to help our schools and to prevent and reduce school violence in all its forms.”

With state support, U-M also will convene a Michigan Learning Community of Schools that employs similar strategies to increase statewide collaboration around school violence prevention.