Bill aimed to improve school safety makes progress at State House

PHOENIX (FOX 10) -- Thursday is the one-year anniversary of the high school massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The massacre has spurred student activism in Arizona, as high school students from around the state formed a "March For Our Lives" Phoenix chapter.

On Thursday, instead of protests, their message is being driven through a new bill that is making its way through the State Legislature.

People may not see them marching the streets or holding die-ins, but the March For Our Lives movement is still active at the State Capitol, and still pushing state lawmakers to make school campuses safer.

"We've gone in a year from angry, disheartened children to understanding the backbreaking work legislators are going through," said Nathan Simmons.

The Arizona March For Our Lives activists have come a long way since they started advocating one year ago. Now, they are working with lawmakers, not against them. It wasn't easy.

"We went to a few lawmakers, and it was hard because of our reputation from last year," said Simmons.

Democratic state lawmaker Daniel Hernandez sponsored and introduced the bill written by the students themselves, HB 2597.

"We've seen a really big growth, and I'm really excited about what these young people have been able to accomplish in less than a year," said State Rep. Hernandez.

"We realized that being part of Arizona in Arizona politics, you can't get much done regarding gun legislation," said Simmons.

As a result, they came up with a school safety bill that focuses on student mental health. The bill would require school districts to implement "Safe School Plans".

"So that teachers and administrators can be trained in how to identify students in crisis and mental health issues. Also help identify people that might have violent tendencies," said State Rep. Hernandez.

The bill has seven Republican lawmakers as co-sponsors, and eight Democratic lawmakers as co-sponsors.

"They completely turned that focus around, and they're down here, they're advocating, and we're doing everything they can to move it forward," said State Sen. Kate Brophy McGee.

The bill had its first committee stop in the Arizona State House on Monday.