RCS supports staff, students and parents following tragedy at Oxford High

District locked down due to proximity to Oxford

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 7, 2021

 An RCS staff member shows how visitors need to check in using the new school intercom systems before being allowed to enter a school building.

An RCS staff member shows how visitors need to check in using the new school intercom systems before being allowed to enter a school building.

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ROCHESTER — The Rochester Community Schools district worked to make staff, students and parents feel safe after a gunman opened fire at Oxford High School Nov. 30.

On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office responded to an active shooter at Oxford High School at approximately 12:55 p.m. Oakland County Sheriff’s Mike Bourchard said deputies took the suspect, 15-year-old sophomore, Ethan Crumbley, into custody within three minutes and recovered the weapon used in the crime.

Prior to the event, no information about a potential threat had been shared with the Sheriff’s Office or the school resource officer, the department said.

At press time, the mass shooting took the lives of four Oxford High students — Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; and Justin Shilling, age 17 — and injured six other students and one teacher.

Crumbley is being charged as an adult on one count of terrorism causing death; four counts of first-degree murder; seven counts of assault with intent to murder and 12 counts of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have each been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.


RCS responds
When news spread there was an active shooter at Oxford High School Nov. 30, Rochester Community Schools Superintendent Robert Shaner took action locally, placing all schools within the RCS district into partial lockdown as an “enhanced safety measure.”

At around 2:22 p.m. that day, Shaner sent an email to parents alerting them of the district’s move, noting that the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office said it was now safe for students and staff to resume normal activities. All after-school activities, evening events and enrichment programs for the evening were canceled.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the students, families and staff at Oxford Community Schools who experienced a devastating tragedy today,” Shaner said in the email.

Following the incident, the district offered a number of support services with RCS community members —  including hosting two-hour in-person RCS support sessions at three district schools that evening and sharing the numbers of various crisis hotlines.

“We recognize the role schools play in attending to the social and emotional needs of our students, staff, families, friends and neighbors so they have tools to manage emotions and work through the difficulties associated with the current events,” Shaner said in an email.
The district, Shaner said, understands that the community may have some questions about the district’s safety practices and protocols following the tragedy.

“At Rochester Community Schools, safety is our priority. We realize that safety is not always convenient, but we are committed to doing everything within our control to protect our students, staff, and guests,” he said in an email.

Local law enforcement, security consultants and police liaison officers provide the district with the necessary guidance and training to keep students and staff safe, according to Shaner. He also pointed to recent bond efforts to enhance student safety and school security within the district — including redesigning the district’s main building entrances to allow for two sets of vestibule doors, an immediate passage to the offices, a better visitor verification system and building lockdown capabilities. The bond efforts also allowed the district to add locks that latch from the interior side of the classroom door, install video surveillance cameras in the schools and on buses, and update the districtwide telephone, radio and public address systems to ensure proper notification and warning during an emergency.

The district has a number of safety and security protocols in place — including requiring all district visitors to enter through each building’s main entrance using the visitor verification system to show picture identification and sign in, and documenting their name, time in/out and purpose of the visit.

Throughout the school day, district officials said, all exterior doors of buildings within the district are locked and all interior classroom doors should be locked at all times. Each building also has an emergency response plan — posted near the door of each room — that outlines procedures for staff to follow in case of a crisis.

During the school year, each school in the district conducts at least three lockdown/shelter-in-place drills, five fire drills and two tornado drills.

The district, as well as each school building, also has a Critical Incident Team of staff, counselors, social workers and psychologists to review support plans for students who may be upset or have questions about events in the news and community.


False threats
More than 60 schools across the state — including those within the Rochester Community Schools District — were closed on Thursday, Dec. 2, and Friday, Dec. 3, out of an “abundance of caution.”

During a press conference Dec. 2, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said officials expected the influx of threats made to schools and districts.

“We anticipated a flood of false threats,” Bouchard said. “I don’t know what is in people’s minds to think, after a real tragedy, it makes sense to make threats.”

Bouchard said many of the threats come from people who either think it’s funny or think it is a way out of school. Whether a threat is credible or not, it’s a crime that will be investigated and sent to the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, he said.

“If you’re making threats, we’re going to find you,” Bouchard said. “It is ridiculous you’re inflaming the fears and passion of parents, teachers and the community in the midst of a real tragedy.”

Tim Waters, a special agent with the FBI, said the bureau has about 40 people working around the clock to track threats. As of Dec. 2, 25 have been investigated, of which 13 have been fully mitigated, Waters said.

Waters encouraged people to report threats to their local law enforcement or the FBI.

“There’s a lot of people out there that are concerned and they have every right to be,” Waters said.

Bouchard also encouraged people to report threats to law enforcement instead of circulating it on social media.

“We’d rather get way too much information than miss one kernel that could be lifesaving. We’d check out a thousand nothings to make sure we don’t miss the one (that is) real.”

Though more than 60 schools were closed, many of which were to remain closed Friday, Bouchard said he was confident that many would reopen Monday, though it is up to the districts. The Sheriff’s Office and law enforcement officials will be working to add personnel to schools to help ensure their safety.

“All of us are going to work 24/7 to make sure those schools are safe,” Bouchard said.


Recovering from tragedy
In a statement, Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart and National Education Association President Becky Pringle said news of the shooting at Oxford High School was “horrifying” to both of them, as educators and as parents.

“Our hearts go out to the victims and their families, as well as all the Oxford students and educators who’ll carry today with them for the rest of their lives,” they said in the statement.

They said the MEA and NEA are committed to working with local members and the school district to ensure that students and employees get the emotional and physical support they need to begin recovering from this tragedy.

“Further, we remain committed to ending violence in our schools. One event like this is too many — and this is not the first time the unthinkable has happened. Addressing the mental health needs of our students and the physical safety of everyone in our schools is not a partisan issue and must be something we work together to achieve. Each of today’s victims — and every student, parent, educator and first responder — deserves that commitment from us all,” they said in the statement.

If a student sees or hears something that doesn’t seem right, they should submit a confidential tip to OK2SAY by calling (855) 565-2729; texting 652729; or emailing OK2SAY@mi.gov. For emergencies, dial 911.

The Oakland Community Health Network encouraged families and individuals who need help managing stress or trauma to contact the Oakland County 24-Hour Crisis Helpline (800) 231-1127 or the Michigan Crisis and Access Line at (844) 446-4225.

Genisys Credit Union in Oxford announced Dec. 1 that it would be accepting donations to assist with families affected by the shooting. Any of the credit union’s 28 branches will accept donations to Oxford Strong. To locate a branch, visit genisyscu.org/locations.

“What we need to do is come together, not get more torn apart,” Bouchard said.

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