ANN ARBOR – School districts across Michigan are reevaluating their emergency preparedness plans in the wake of the deadly shooting on Tuesday at Oxford High School in which a 15-year-old shooter killed four students and injured several others, including a teacher.
In Southeast Michigan on Thursday, numerous schools closed after threatening messages of violence were discovered online.
Here in Ann Arbor, high schools stayed open but allowed students to go home as the district investigated similar online threats in collaboration with local law enforcement.
Any time a school shooting happens, the district reconsiders its own safety protocols and what lessons can be learned, said AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Swift.
As it stands, the district has its staff regularly undergo ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) active shooter preparedness training and each school in the district practices drills for this type of scenario.
“There’s always that conversation around lessons learned and reevaluating,” said Swift. “We have a strong and solid plan. Our schools are safe and, yet, it’s in these moments following these situations where we say, ‘Is there something more that we could do?’ Those questions are always on the conversation.
“The wider conversation is around how long in this country are we going to be okay with four sets of parents who sent their children to high school (Tuesday) who did not come home?’”
Swift said the district is awaiting after-incident analysis following the Oakland County investigation into Tuesday’s shooting. She said AAPS officials will hold a meeting to fine tune any lessons learned from the investigation.
Ann Arbor Police Department Lieutenant Patrick Maguire said officers are regularly trained in active shooter response.
“Every other week, we’re rotating different officers from our department through active shooter training with agencies from around the county,” said Maguire. “We conduct the training in out of service school buildings so it’s as realistic as possible and it’s based on scenarios that have happened in the country in the past.”
Maguire said the days following the Oxford High School shooting have been busy for Ann Arbor police, specifically as they help AAPS investigate online threats.
“Out of an abundance of caution, we’re doing everything we can to be as visible and present at the schools as we can be,” he said. “With everything going on this week, obviously concerns of students, parents and staff members at school are very high right now. Our aim is to be a calming presence and to deter anything from happening.”
Like AAPS, Maguire said AAPD has been reevaluating its procedures following the shooting in Oxford. As a result, AAPS has increased its presence at all Ann Arbor schools, he said.
AAPS also collaborates with University of Michigan’s Department of Public Safety and Security with its emergency preparedness response strategy.
DPSS’s Strategic Communications Director Heather Young said her department puts a strong emphasis on prevention and recognizing the warning signs before a deadly scenario unfolds.
“We try to drive that home that you see something, say something,” said Young.
She referenced the nonprofit Sandy Hook Promise’s website, which states that “in 4 out of 5 school shootings, at least one other person had knowledge of the attacker’s plan but failed to report it.”
“That’s a stark and telling number,” said Young.
DPSS’ video titled “Active Attacker - Response and Prevention” won four Emmys. Young attributes the focus on prevention within the video for its success. She said all new U-M employees must watch it.
“We struggle in safety and security in PSA’s,” said Young. “No one wants to think about it and people think ‘It will never happen to me.’”
Ann Arbor Public Schools continues to ask anyone with information of possible threats to students, staff or school buildings to file a report through its reporting platform OK2SAY.
Reports can be made to law enforcement and the district by texting 652729 (OK2SAY), calling 855-5OK-2SAY or emailing OK2SAY@mi.gov.