School districts urge vigilance, report threats
Just 24 hours after four students were killed by a student gunman inside Oxford High Schools, officials at the Oakland County's intermediate school district say media posts have been made alleging a copycat shooting is planned for other schools.
Oakland Schools’ Superintendent Wanda Cook Robinson said Wednesday the safety and security of students and staff is the priority of Oakland Schools and its 28 member districts.
"Please know that we are taking this matter seriously and we are working with local law enforcement," Robinson said. "Oakland Schools has coordinated grief counseling support and mental health resources to help students, teachers, and staff maneuver the days ahead."
School districts across Michigan are responding Wednesday with messages to parents and students to keep safety a priority a day after three students were killed at Oxford High School and eight others are hospitalized with gunshot wounds.
Along with words of grief and tips and resources to support students dealing with the aftermath of a crisis so close to home, districts say they are reviewing their safety procedures and urge people to report any threats that they see or hear.
Livonia Public Schools Superintendent Andrea Oquist, in an email to families of students in the district, urged "anyone in our school community — students or adults — report any concern or threat to an LPS staff member. We also want to remind parents and students about the mechanism in place throughout our state to do so: the 'OK2SAY' Tip Line."
The tip line OK2SAY also was stressed by Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Patrick Watson as a first resource for anyone who hears a potential threat. "Please take care of yourselves and one another," he concludes in a letter to families.
In the Pontiac School District, Superintendent Kelley Williams outlined in a letter posted on the district's website the security measures employed at school buildings and also urged anyone who sees a threat on social media to report it to authorities. "We have heard of these copycat threats across Oakland County," she wrote, adding that the district will have more patrols from sheriff's deputies this week.
Robert Livernois, superintendent of Warren Consolidated Schools in Macomb County, sent parents of students a letter Tuesday in which he said the district is implementing counseling response protocols to help students and staff.
He also said the shooting at Oxford High School reminds him how important it is to think how schools can help the children and parents in their communities.
His district has put a tip sheet for parents on its web site to help parents talk to their children about the shooting.
Livernois also said in the letter: "My experience tells me one of the most important things we can do tonight is turn off our TVs and cell phones and spend time talking with our children. Although it may be difficult, limiting media coverage can help reduce stress and anxiety in our children and ourselves."
Utica Community Schools superintendent Robert Monroe also said in a letter to parents that his district is prepared to help and support its students impacted by the shooting.
And like Livernois, he urged parents in his district to talk with their children about any concerns they may have in the wake of the shooting.
"The senseless tragedy at Oxford High School this afternoon has impacted all of us," he said. "This incident, so close to us, brings home the importance of working together in support of our children and each other."
At Oxford High School earlier this month, a notice went out to parents and guardians about unspecified "concerns and rumors."
"Please know that we have reviewed every concern shared with us and investigated all information provided," according to the notice obtained by The News. "Student interpretations of social media posts and false information have exacerbated the overall concern. We want our parents and students to know there has been no threat to our building nor our students."
Along with the safety measures and reminders to report any threats to authorities, school officials are offering families help in coping with the aftermath of a tragedy.
"It would be very important for parents to just be observant of things such as changes in sleep and appetite, changes in behavior, or children having trouble focusing or concentrating," said Dr. Hema Iyer, chief medical director at Henry Ford Kingswood Hospital in Ferndale, a psychiatric facility for both children and adults.
"The most important thing an adult can do for a child is just to be fully present — to be physically, emotionally and mentally present for the child, and to let them know that they are in a safe place."