Oakland County leaders in new video on fake school threats: 'It's not a joke'

Hannah Mackay
The Detroit News

As threats to local schools continue to disrupt classes and prompt lockdowns, Oakland County's top two law enforcement officials are sharing the consequences of fake threats and offering parents tips on how to be proactive in a new video produced by a local district.

The five-minute video, produced by Bloomfield Hills Schools and available on the district's YouTube channel, is called "False Threats, Real Consequences." It was sent to the Bloomfield Hills School community on Tuesday.

"We sent out the video yesterday, encouraging families to closely monitor social media and electronic device use, have conversations with their children at home, reiterated the importance of reporting through OK2Say, and about proper weapon storage," Karen Huyghe, the district's spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

The video features Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard. It also includes Patrick Watson, Bloomfield Hills' superintendent; Bloomfield Township Police Chief James Gallagher; West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton; and Bloomfield Hills Department of Public Safety Captain Jeff Gormley.

"As we near the one-year remembrance of the Oxford High School tragedy on Nov. 30 our hearts continue to be with those in our community and across the county who have been impacted," Bouchard said. "We want our primary focus to be on supporting our community through this difficult period of remembrance. Unfortunately, we are also faced with the reality that after a major school tragedy, copycat threats occur at an exponential rate."

The video comes almost exactly one year after the mass shooting at Oxford High School in which a 15-year-old gunman killed four of his peers. Since then, there has been an increase in school threats across Metro Detroit.

An image from a new video, "False Threats, Real Consequences," features Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, third from left, and Prosecutor Karen McDonald, second from right.

Last week a threat to South Lyon East High School was found in a bathroom stall, forcing Oakland County Sheriff's Deputies to search every classroom. And a 16-year-old girl was arrested last week for threats made to Ferndale High School on social media.

Threats of school violence can be made inside and outside of school, McDonald said. Students may post threats on social media, write them on a mirror or wall, or tell peers. Anyone who makes a threat will be held accountable, potentially with criminal prosecution, she said. A false report of terrorism is a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

"Students sometimes say that their threats were meant to be a joke. It's not a joke," McDonald said. "Those threats don't just scare students, faculty, staff and parents, they also draw an intensive and appropriate response from law enforcement and they shut down schools and disrupt learning."

Students who make threats to Bloomfield Hills Schools could be punished with suspension or expulsion, Watson said in the video.

To help prevent school threats, parents should make sure all weapons at home are safely stored, Gallagher said. They should also know their child's passwords to access their electronic devices and monitor those devices and social media accounts regularly for inappropriate searches and behaviors, he added.

"Consider downloading an app to help create parental controls on your child's technology," Gallagher said. "Anyone can report tips confidentially to OK2SAY Michigan's anonymous reporting system."

Bloomfield Hills Schools will also be leaning into its "social-emotional learning curriculum and procedures to support students in understanding how words and actions impact others both in and around our community," Huyghe said.

hmackay@detroitnews.com