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Huizenga op-ed: Continuing a serious conversation with students

Washington, April 19, 2018
As a father, I am committed to protecting our students and ensuring they are safe. I am deeply moved by all who have been impacted by gun violence, especially students. I have consistently engaged with the youth of this district and am always willing to sit down and constructively discuss the important issues affecting students.

There are areas of agreement on measures that can be taken at the local level to physically secure our schools. For example, I believe more resource officers should be hired, entry and exit points to schools should be secured, as well as potentially purchasing metal detectors for schools that need them.

More importantly, I believe there must be greater access to mental health resources. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, from 1999-2016, nearly 59 percent of gun-related deaths in Michigan were suicides. Over this same period, suicides in which a firearm was used increased 32 percent. I recently supported legislation to improve ways to identify signs of violence in schools, enhance intervention for those impacted by mental illness and strengthen coordination between law enforcement and schools. Addressing mental health will require vigilance at every level.

There is no real consensus on what actions should be taken at the federal level. It is also clear students, educators, local schools systems and government have a collective responsibility to address the breakdown in our society.

I plan to continue meeting with them because I believe a constructive and informed dialogue must happen. My office has reached out to Reeths-Puffer High School and North Muskegon High School asking if they would help facilitate a discussion with concerned students. Additionally, I will meet with students this week to discuss their concerns.

The country stands with our students, and I remain committed to continuing a productive dialogue and ensure their voices are heard.
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