Oakland County Schools Impacted by Threats of Violence

Oakland County Schools Impacted by Threats of Violence

(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 22, 2018)

Oak Park, Ferndale, Royal Oak, Novi, Farmington, Holly West Bloomfield, Hazel Park, Birmingham, South Lyon, MI- In the wake of the Valentine’s Day shooting deaths in Parkland, Florida, the nation has seen a rise of threats made against schools, mainly online.  Schools in Oakland County have been no exception.

Threats this week have resulted in increased security, school lock downs and even a two-day closure in Oak Park.

Oak Park Superintendent Daveda Colbert announced that school was closed Thursday and Friday due to threats.  “We are extremely concerned about social media posts which read as threats against our schools.  Similar posts were made at other schools: districts in the metro Detroit area…We do not find these posts funny at all. They cause anxiety and concerns for students, staff, parents and communities alike.  We are asking if you see something, say something immediately.  Oak Park Public Safety is investigating who the originators are of these posts.”

She went on to say “Let’s try to remain calm, but alert. Please be aware of all things and report immediately things that don’t look, sound or feel right.  Also, I urge you to monitor your child’s social media accounts and please make sure any and all weapons are safely locked and stored properly.  Please talk with your child about making good decisions daily.”

In Birmingham, Derby Middle School is closed Friday due to a “building issue,” that is rumored, but unconfirmed, to be a threat.

In Ferndale, the High School and Middle School were closed last week due to concern over an employee’s potential for self-harm.

This week students were in a “shelter in place” situation because of a “non-specific threat to the Ferndale Middle School & Ferndale High School Campus from an anonymous online source,” said Superintendent Dania H. Bazzi.

The Ferndale Police responded immediately and began an investigation and determined that it was not a credible threat and classes have continued.

“During the course of their investigation we became aware that very similar non-specific, online,  anonymous threats had also been made to many other local high schools this morning,” Bazzi added.

She also provided explanations of the terms used during security-related events:

Secure the building – Activity and instruction inside of the building continues as normal.  However, no one is allowed to enter or exit the building.

Shelter in place – Students and staff remain in their current classroom and instruction continues.  Hallways are cleared and students do not change classes.  No one is allowed to enter or exit the building. 

Lockdown – All interior doors are closed and locked.  Lights are turned off inside of the classrooms and blinds are drawn.  Students and staff move away from doorways and windows.

Orchard Lake Middle School in West Bloomfield was on lockdown today due to threats.  “Today during first hour a student brought to our attention a threatening social media message she received that targeted specific students,” said an alert from Morrison Borders, Middle School Principal.  “We are currently in external lockdown.  An external lockdown means that normal school operations will continue but individuals attempting to gain access to the school must go through West Bloomfield police officers that are stationed at the front doors and students are not allowed out of the building.”

Hazel Park Schools will be closed Friday, March 23 due to a threat on social media.

One month ago, news broke of a student having made threats on Snapchat towards students at Royal Oak High School.  Included in a slideshow were two pictures of an army hat and lastly the caption “Starting Monday morning at ROHS, a little lesson on how not to piss people off… who wants first”  The message worried students, who contacted school administration, who worked with the police to investigate and remove the student from the school.

Yet the incident sparked discussions that are similar to those happening around the country.  With teenage interactions taking place digitally and social media being fertile grounds for both information and speculation, parents and school administrators have new territory to navigate. Fueling the emotions of all involved are the fears felt nationwide in the wake of increased school violence and death.

Royal Oak Schools Superintendent Mary Beth Fitzpatrick would not confirm if the Snapchat occurred, but she said that in all cases of potential threats the school district “works closely with the Royal Oak Police Department to investigate.”

“We deal with this kind of thing every day in schools,” Fitzpatrick said when asked why parents were not notified.  “If we think there is a credible threat, we communicate that to parents.”

As far as other potential threats, Fitzpatrick asks for trust.  “I’ve been doing this over 30 years,” she said.  “I’m a parent.  I have two children.  I worry about what will happen too… We have to have a trusting relationship… We will share information that is necessary.”

In Berkley the High School was locked down after a bullet was found in the building on Feb. 23.  In Novi two students were charged with making a terrorist threat. In South Lyon a teen has been charged with making threats.  And the list goes on.  In Holly a teenager who is not a student made a threat against the school and was arrested.  Classes have not been cancelled.

This story is a work in progress and will be updated over the next few days.

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