West Bloomfield schools respond to Parkland shooting

Educators focus on increased safety and mental health education 

By: Maddie Forshee | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published March 9, 2018

WEST BLOOMFIELD — With the recent school shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on everyone’s minds, for many people, it’s hard to imagine what to do in that situation. 

At a recent West Bloomfield School District Board of Education meeting held on Feb. 26, Jerry Hill, superintendent of the West Bloomfield School District, talked about what the district is doing to protect its students. 

“The recent shooting tragedy that occurred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was horrific beyond words and causes us all to pause and reflect seriously,” he said. “The safety and security of children in our schools is paramount. We once again are facing the same question we have in the past: how to best provide a safe learning environment for students.

“Schools, in conjunction with communities, must work together to make sure students feel safe and secure by providing them with more intensive services and support than currently offered.” 

Hill said that though the school district has policies and procedures in place for emergency situations, the Board of Education will be re-evaluating its protocols. 

West Bloomfield High School has a resource officer from the West Bloomfield Police Department who is present throughout the day. Detective Katie Roshirt is versed in ALICE training and is qualified to teach it. 

ALICE is short for “alert, locate, inform, counter, evacuate” and is a type of training for emergency situations such as an active shooter. People are trained to learn more options for escape and survival in these situations, and there are steps they can take to keep themselves and others safe. 

The school district has finalized a three-year agreement with the ALICE Training Institute for WBPD officers to train teachers on what to do in an active-shooter situation, said Hill. 

“These incidents can happen anywhere, be it Parkland, Florida, or West Bloomfield,” said Curt Lawson, West Bloomfield deputy police chief. “We don’t leave any stone unturned when we investigate even the potential threat or rumor. If there’s any sort of danger to our students, we take that very seriously.” 

In November, Lawson told C & G that the West Bloomfield Police Department trains all its officers in active-shooter response when they are hired. 

The two-day training with OakTac, or the Oakland County Law Enforcement Tactical Response Coordinating Group, was established in 2009 to train police to be prepared for large-scale incidents.

The Walled Lake Consolidated School District encourages people to report any suspicious activity and will take action against any person who makes threats against a school, exemplified in the fact that the district suspended two students, from Walled Lake Northern and Walled Lake Central, on March 1 and 2 for making threats via social media.

“Walled Lake Schools, in cooperation with our parents and community, has always made safety and security our top priority,” said Judy Evola, communications director for the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. “We know there is no foolproof safeguard from individuals who want to inflict harm. ... We will continue to do everything in our control to maintain safety in our schools.”

Schools in the district have a deputy from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office in them and keep all perimeter and internal doors locked during the school day.

Evola said that in addition to regular drills, the district has installed $67.5 million of safety and security technology in its schools and has trained staff on how to keep students safe in an emergency situation. 

The West Bloomfield School District has also taken steps to put a focus on student mental health, as shown with programs like PrepareU, a mental health curriculum for students.  

Hill said that the recent approval of a bond will allow the district to invest in safer facilities. 

School entrances across the district will be enhanced with security cameras and key cards. Some of the security cameras will be accessible by the West Bloomfield Police Department so that officers can see a situation more clearly. 

“It’s abundantly clear to me that, as a society, we need to take strong actions now,” said Hill. “The time for talking is over. I believe the students in Florida are leading a movement, and we really need to be listening to the voices of youth and not shutting them down.”