Student health and safety must be a parent-school partnership

By Senator Marianne Moore

Senate Republicans unveiled legislation during a press briefing on Tuesday to help improve student mental health and school safety. The bills range from conducting a statewide forensic audit of current school physical defenses to the implementation of school-based health centers, all with several goals in mind.

Hello, this is Senator Marianne Moore of Washington County. It’s my pleasure to join you for this week’s Republican Radio Address.

The goals of Republicans are to improve the safety of students while on campus, improve mental health, prevent substance abuse and build a better sense of family involvement. But the process has to start somewhere. We propose conducting a comprehensive gap assessment of all school facilities in Maine to see what resources are needed and how much available technology can be incorporated into existing schools.

Marianne Moore – Washington

This forensic audit should also assess the current practices in securing our schools and which have school resource officers and which ones don’t. We’ve seen cases where physical defenses weren’t secured, such as the tragic incident in Uvalde, Texas, where an open door allowed the threat to get inside the school. We’ve also seen other incidents over the years where there were no defenses at all.

The audit will determine exactly where Maine’s schools stand and help inform us on what technology should become a part of our building codes for future school construction. An example of new technology is interlocking door controllers, otherwise known as mantrap doors that consist of a double set of doors that can be locked simultaneously in an emergency.

When it comes to student mental health, our gap assessment will also help clarify what resources are needed across the state to help improve the physical and mental health of our students. In fact, the mental health of our children is of particular concern.

The recently released results from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Youth Risk Behavior Survey” show that Maine students are having increased rates of thoughts of suicide and a sense of sadness and hopelessness, particularly among girls. This level of distress among our youth is a clear call to action.

The challenge for us as lawmakers is to offer the proper resources needed to not only achieve academic excellence but also address the levels of mental anguish we’re seeing among our students, especially young girls.

My goal is to move to school-based health centers as a centralized source for all things health. These community centers would increase health education and access to needed health services, including mental health and substance use prevention services. More importantly, they would work in conjunction with parents and families

That’s an important point. No matter what we do through our schools, it has to be centered on the family. In fact, family involvement should be the working model for all school functions. Yet another topic we covered during our Tuesday press briefing was the fact that the Maine Department of Education doesn’t believe families even exist in adopting their new “Whole Student Approach.”

Based on an Ohio State University model that stresses the importance of family and community partnerships, Maine’s Department of Education instead chose to disregard the family entirely when it created its own framework. According to them, families apparently don’t matter.

Thankfully, we feel otherwise.

So how do we accomplish all of this? A central part of our plan will be to convene a statewide task force to rely on experts across a variety of fields to make recommendations to the Legislature once the audit is complete.

These would be professionals from law enforcement, public safety, mental health and public education that would continuously assess school districts and best practices who are not rooted in the woke ideology, which unfortunately is the primary focus of our Department of Education.

We also need to ensure that all schools can make the changes needed regardless of district wealth. Whether a school is in Westbrook, Fort Fairfield or in my district in Cherryfield, all of our teachers matter. All of our kids are precious.

Again, this is Senator Marianne Moore of Washington County. I hope you have a great weekend.

Senator Marianne Moore represents the communities of District 6, which includes all municipalities in Washington County and 16 communities in eastern Hancock County. She is the Senate Republican Lead for the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee.

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