Grosse Pointe schools take additional steps against threats following Oxford shooting

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published December 9, 2021

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GROSSE POINTES — In the wake of a tragic shooting at Oxford High School that, at press time, had claimed the lives of four students and injured a number of others, Grosse Pointe school officials are trying to reassure parents that the Grosse Pointe Public School System is doing what it can to prevent that from happening here.

“With the tragedy yesterday, all districts, including GPPSS, will be reviewing and updating our security procedures,” a district spokesperson said by email Dec. 1. “We will keep the community informed as we do this work.”

Following the Nov. 30 shooting, which was allegedly committed by an Oxford High School student, the GPPSS issued a statement on its website and sent an email to parents outlining some of the GPPSS’s actions and extending support to anyone who might need it.

The Pointes weren’t immune to the rash of apparent copycat threats that happened across metro Detroit following the Oxford shooting. In response to social media posts featuring apparent threats against Parcells Middle School and Grosse Pointe South High School, GPPSS Superintendent M. Jon Dean said in a Dec. 2 letter to families and school staff that all schools and school programs had been canceled for Dec. 3. It was one of several letters issued by Dean in recent days to keep parents, students and staff updated.

In a letter signed by the public safety directors in all five Pointes and Harper Woods late last week, public safety officials said they “take these matters incredibly seriously and will continue to investigate any possible threat.”

“Unfortunately, in these times of sadness and fear, some people add to the turmoil by spreading rumors and false stories, which can spread quickly through social media,” the letter reads, in part. “Your local police departments have implemented increased police presence at all schools in an overabundance of caution and to support our communities during this time. There is no evidence of any credible threat against any of our schools.”

However, at least one local youth was under investigation for making an alleged threat against Parcells Middle School.

At press time, a 14-year-old from Grosse Pointe Woods who attends Parcells was facing charges of false threat or report of terrorism in conjunction with a Dec. 2 post regarding his school. The teen was slated to appear before Juvenile Court Referee Brandi Taylor Dec. 13. The Woods teen was one of seven youths in various cities charged in Wayne County on similar offenses Dec. 3.

“There is a stranglehold on Southeastern Michigan now. School threats naturally put everyone on edge. Today, my office processed and charged six juveniles for threats and one for having a weapon in the wake of the tragedy at Oxford High School,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement Dec. 3. “Thankfully, these matters were all thwarted, and no one was harmed. While the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office has always tried to be vigilant and proactive in these cases, it does not mean that it will not continue to occur. I urge everyone to be cautious, to be alert and above all, immediately report what you know, hear and see.”

A spokesperson for the Prosecutor’s Office said these cases will be heard in juvenile court, with possible sentences based on the offense and rehabilitation of the offender.

The apparent threat against South High School turned out to be directed at a school in a different district.

“The Farms Public Safety Department has determined after conducting an investigation that the social media comments regarding South were not directed against Grosse Pointe South,” Dean wrote in a Dec. 5 letter. “Instead, it was a social media post that referenced L’Anse Creuse Middle School South.”

Dean is among the school leaders urging parents to let their children know these threats have serious repercussions for the makers.

“Online threats, even those intended to not be serious, are dangerous,” Dean wrote Dec. 3. “Students or individuals who make these types of threats risk criminal and school consequences including incarceration, legal penalties and school expulsion.”

Dean said staff at all of the schools would be meeting Dec. 6 to discuss safety practices and concerns. On Dec. 7, he said, administrators would be meeting with local public safety directors to talk about what should happen next.

“GPPSS has already had contact with the safety consultants that conducted our safety audit in 2016, and we anticipate meeting with them later this week, as well,” Dean wrote Dec. 5. “Partnering with our local law enforcement officers and our security consultants will help us take any further measures that are necessary to keep our kids and staff safe.”

Dean asked parents and students to “remain vigilant” and report anything that “appears unsafe” to their local police department and school administrators.

Roughly five years ago, a district spokesperson said by email, GPPSS teamed with a security consultant service to conduct a districtwide security audit. As a result, the district undertook building safety improvements including secured vestibules, increased cameras and classroom doors that lock from inside. District officials regularly meet with public safety leaders to discuss safety measures, and each GPPSS building conducts three lockdown drills and one evacuation drill annually.

Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, whose district includes the Grosse Pointes and portions of Oakland County, was among the many officials who issued statements following the Oxford shooting.

“No child, parent, teacher or community should ever have to go through the tragedy and the terror that struck Oxford High School yesterday. I am so frustrated and tired of moments of silence, and cannot imagine the pain the families of the deceased are experiencing. The swift actions of Oakland County’s first responders demonstrated immense bravery and dedication to their community,” Lawrence said in a prepared statement. “I join the entire community in praying for the recovery of those still in critical condition. The refusal by some to take meaningful action is costing us the lives of our children, and we can’t keep burying our heads in the sand. The gun violence epidemic in this country is a public and mental health crisis, and we must stop the bloodshed in our schools and in our communities.”