Fitzgerald community, police gather for meeting on school safety

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published December 3, 2018

 Fitzgerald Public Schools staff held a meeting Nov. 28 at Fitzgearld High School to discuss safety and security in the district.

Fitzgerald Public Schools staff held a meeting Nov. 28 at Fitzgearld High School to discuss safety and security in the district.

Photo by Maria Allard

WARREN — The 2018-19 school year began on a tragic note for Fitzgerald High School when, on Sept. 12, a student stabbed to death her classmate Danyna Gibson in a classroom.

Two months later, on Nov. 8, an altercation between two students occurred outside after school, in which two staff members were injured while trying to break it up.

The incidents prompted Fitzgerald Public Schools officials to hold an informational meeting for parents the evening of Nov. 28 regarding school security and safety. Held inside the high school auditorium, the meeting featured presentations from Superintendent Laurie Fournier, FHS Principal Amanda Clor, FPS Director of Student Services Dawn Bruley, Warren Mayor Jim Fouts, Warren Police Commissioner Bill Dwyer, FPS Board of Education member Julie Yokel and CARE of Southeastern Michigan parent educator Joe Gulino.

The meeting, which lasted about an hour and 15 minutes, included information about the district’s crisis plans, preparedness training and school safety, social media, how parents can help, and more. School officials estimated that about 100 parents attended the meeting.

District staff assured parents that the district is working with the Warren Police Department in an effort to keep students safe. School officials used a PowerPoint presentation to share what security measures are presently being enforced.

Current safety measures districtwide include increased security, updated security cameras, one entry point for students to enter FHS, one school resource police officer at FHS and one at Chatterton Middle School. As another precaution, parents and visitors must show picture identification when at a school. In addition, all faculty received training last summer — prior to this year’s incidents — in Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate, or ALICE, which is a drill for responding to armed intruders.

“We have trained our staff in making informed decisions to keep your students safe,” Clor said.

During the meeting, school officials shared with the audience details about “Tell Fitz,” which was unveiled in November. The new hotline number allows FHS students and parents to call and leave messages about safety and security issues that are concerning. Messages can be left anonymously and filter through the high school’s security desk. “Tell Fitz” is currently being piloted at the high school, and school officials plan to eventually offer it at Chatterton.

At this time, the phone number has not been made public, as school officials are only giving the number to FHS students and their parents.

Clor also revealed information that FPS received a Michigan State Police grant in 2018 for $178,985 that will be used to update exterior doors throughout the district, provide additional security measures at the entryways at Mound Park and Westview elementary schools and the Schofield Early Childhood Center, and provide for the installation of security film on selected windows so they are shatterproof.

School officials also said they need parents and students to speak up if they hear or see anything suspicious. Presenters encouraged students to tell a parent, teacher or another adult about any suspicious activity they observe while at school, hear about in the community or see on social media. If school officials and police are made aware of possible threats ahead of time, they can be prevented.

“If you see or hear anything suspicious, tell someone. If you hear or see something dangerous, let an adult know. Our city police will take the necessary action,” Fouts said. “If  you want students to learn, you must have a safe school. They can’t learn in a school they don’t feel safe in. Let’s continue to work together. That means the superintendent; that means the school board; that means the parents. We’re all in it together.”

Dwyer pointed out that FHS School Resource Officer Rich Williams, who was present at the meeting, works well with the school administrators.

“He’s part of the school. Without Rich being here, you will have major problems,” Dwyer said. “The students respect him. They confide in him.”

He also voiced his disappointment that more parents were not in attendance at the meeting.

“I applaud the parents that are here tonight,” he said. “What I’m disappointed with is the parents that aren’t here. We need parents to step up. Parents must talk to their children about what is going on in their (inner circle).”

“We need to hear our children. We need to hear how they feel,” Gulino said. “Let the child talk. We have to be approachable as parents. We need to learn how to listen and communicate effectively with our children.”

Fournier agreed.

“Parents, we need your involvement. Monitor (your children’s) social media,” Fournier said. “Talk to your children. … By working together, we can ensure the safety of our students, staff and community.”