Center Line discusses school safety at community meeting

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published March 2, 2018

 At the Feb. 26 “Let’s Talk: Community Safety” forum,” Center Line Public Schools Superintendent Eve Kaltz holds up a shirt featuring the logo for OK2SAY, a state of Michigan hotline where people can report tips that threaten the safety of students or schools.

At the Feb. 26 “Let’s Talk: Community Safety” forum,” Center Line Public Schools Superintendent Eve Kaltz holds up a shirt featuring the logo for OK2SAY, a state of Michigan hotline where people can report tips that threaten the safety of students or schools.

Photo by Brandy Baker

CENTER LINE — As the nation mourns the fatal shooting of 17 students and staff members Feb. 14 at a southern Florida high school, Center Line Public Schools came together Feb. 26-27 with two community meetings to discuss school safety within the district.

At the “Let’s Talk: Community Safety” forums, Superintendent Eve Kaltz, district administrators and local law enforcement shared information about the various procedures they have in place should criminal activity or a crisis occur.

About 45 people attended a meeting held prior to the school board meeting Feb. 26 at the district’s administration building. A second meeting, which drew a handful of parents, was held the afternoon of Feb. 27 at Center Line High School.

Kaltz made a presentation at both meetings that highlighted how school officials handle school safety, federal laws and regulations, revised school code requirements, and more. School personnel also solicited input from community members.

Anytime a student makes a threat against Center Line Public Schools, it is immediately looked into.

“Everything is investigated,” Kaltz said. “We don’t want our kids growing up terrified of going to school or going to the mall, but we want them to be prepared.”

In Center Line, crisis teams meet during the year and also communicate via text messaging with high school staff about issues that arise. There is ongoing work with staff to stay on top of the latest recommendations for emergency procedures and processes. Staff and students practice safety drills, and there are consequences for students who do not comply.

Kaltz said adults are present when students enter and exit the buildings, and she added that students and parents “have been very quick” to report dangerous or inappropriate social media posts.

“There are so many things on social media that are dangerous,” Kaltz said.

In addition, educators hold assemblies to help students understand bullying and how to report it. CLPS also participates in Michigan’s OK2SAY program. OK2SAY allows anyone to confidentially report tips on criminal activities or potential harm directed at Michigan students, school employees or schools without having to give their name.

In November, a $53.95 million bond issue passed in the district. A list of building improvements is planned, including updates to school security. Bond work will include installing cameras in all buildings and door buzzers. Cameras are currently on all buses. In the past, the district had a police officer liaison at CLHS in which the city of Center Line and the district shared expenses. Because of budget cuts, that position was terminated. At last Tuesday’s meeting, Center Line Mayor Robert Binson said city officials are looking at the possibility of bringing back the position.

“We’re looking into the feasibility to do it,” Binson said.

In the meantime, Binson said Center Line public safety officers on patrol are known to stop in at the schools periodically to have a presence.  

After the presentation, Kaltz added that the district’s secondary administrators are speaking with students regarding their fears and concerns.

Since the Florida shooting last month, there has been talk throughout the country of arming teachers with firearms. Some support the measure and feel it is one more step to keeping students safe, while others are completely against the idea.

“Guns in the schools, everybody goes ‘what’ ‘what,’” Kaltz said. “I want to protect our kids. I think it is so difficult to say what the answer is.”

Kaltz feels the meetings went well, although they were not as well-attended as school officials would have liked. However, the district will continue to provide opportunities to receive input from the community.

Parent Cindy Serafin attended the Feb. 27 meeting. She believes school officials “are doing what they can” regarding school safety.

“Their hands are tied by budgets in reference to having a school liaison in the building,” Serafin said. “I also would like to have more monitoring on the camera system that is in the schools.”

Wendy Watters, who has a child at Wolfe Middle School and another at Roose Elementary School, also attended the meeting.

“I know how involved our district is with our students,” Watters said. “I know how much Eve and our administrators make sure that (school safety) was still being focused on.”

She would like to “see some type of liaisons” in the school buildings.

“They’ll feel comfortable with somebody they can talk to about issues,” Watters said.

Watters is on several social media sites, including Snapchat and Facebook, to keep an eye on her kids. She has even become friends with her children’s friends in the process.

“Social media, it’s good and it’s evil,” Watters said. “The reality is that kids are going to be on social media.”

Schools nationwide are planning a walkout beginning at 10 a.m. March 14 in their respective time zones. The 17-minute walkout — to represent the 17 individuals who died Feb. 14 — is designed to send a message to Congress about gun violence in the schools.

CLPS officials have heard that some students are interested in the national walkout scheduled for April 20 on the 19-year anniversary of the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado, in which two students shot and killed 12 students and one staff member. Officials are discussing how best to support the students’ desire to make a statement and be heard without disrupting the educational process.