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Senators Debate Requirements in School Safety Bill

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Senators Debate Requirements in School Safety Bill
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Senator Brice Wiggins Discussing School Safety Bill
Ashley Norwood

Mississippi legislators in the Senate take issue with some requirements in a school school safety bill passed by House lawmakers.

Mississippi Senators peppered their colleague Republican Brice Wiggins of Pascagoula with questions about House Bill 1283. House lawmakers passed the Mississippi School Safety Act with an amendment requiring age appropriate mental health instruction for students K-5. The bill emphasizes helping children cope with stress and anxiety. Republican Senator Michael Watson of Pascagoula noted the bill doesn't explain exactly what children will be taught.

"What's age appropriate for your child, I may not feel comfortable at that age appropriate for my child and again this curriculum piece is important. You say evidence-based but they're not telling me which curriculum they're going to choose," said Watson.

Wiggins says the state departments of education and mental health will work with six school districts in three pilot programs to develop the curriculum. He says mental health will be added to an existing health education program already in place for suicide prevention. Wiggins added there are objectives in the bill such as destigmatizing mental illness which will be included. He says people can share their thoughts on the program.

"Parents, teachers, community members can all get with their local school boards, go meet with them and say this is what I want and this is what I don't want," said Wiggins.

Wiggins says federal grants are paying for the program. The governor's school task force recommendations such as active shooter training within the first 60 days of school are included. The bill provides $2 million for school resource officers and analysts will monitor threats on social media. Three amendments were added. One would require parents approve of any behavioral health screenings. The bill returns to the House for review.