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

District locked down due to proximity to Oxford

By: Mary Beth Almond | Rochester Post | Published December 1, 2021

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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.

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. 

The suspect, a 15-year-old sophomore at Oxford High, was taken into custody two to three minutes after authorities responded to the shooting, according to Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard. 

The teen is being held at Oakland County Children’s Village, a juvenile detention facility. Undersheriff Mike McCabe said the shooter’s parents have hired an attorney and have not allowed him to talk to police.

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 cancelled.

“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. 

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.

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