WB, WLCD districts close in wake of Oxford High shootings

Districts offer mental health suggestions

By: Mark Vest | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published December 2, 2021


WEST BLOOMFIELD — Following the shootings that took place at Oxford High School Nov. 30, in which 15-year-old sophomore Ethan Crumbley reportedly shot and killed four teens and injured seven other people, the West Bloomfield School District and the Walled Lake Consolidated Schools districts sent out statements to families.

The WB statement said the district staff “share our deepest sympathy and support for the students, staff, and families of Oxford Community Schools. We cannot begin to imagine the pain the Oxford community feels today following the devastating shooting at Oxford High School, causing four fatalities and several additional injuries. Our hearts are heavy and our prayers are with those touched by this unfortunate incident.”

District officials said the safety and well-being of the West Bloomfield community is their first priority.

“We recognize the role schools play in attending to the social and emotional needs of our students, staff, friends, families, and neighbors so they have the tools necessary to manage emotions and work through the difficulties associated with the current events,” according to the statement.

The WB district also closed all of its schools for Dec. 2 and 3, “due to the serious nature of social media threats related to school shootings across Oakland County.” All school-related events and activities were also canceled. “We regret this late notice but the safety of our students and staff members is our highest concern,” said Public Relations & Marketing Coordinator Kendra Montante in an email at around midnight the night before the closures.

According to the WLCS district email, “Although there appear to be no credible threats at this time, we are pausing instruction for the day out of an abundance of caution. This closure includes ALL after school events, activities, and facility rentals.”

The statement from Superintendent Kenneth Gutman asked students, parents and community members to report all suspicious or threatening activity to law enforcement and/or school/district administration immediately. “We regret the lateness of this decision and appreciate your support,” the statement reads.

The WB district listed some tools for immediate help with crisis and reporting.

“If you or a loved one is struggling, please utilize the support services listed below:

• Common Ground — Helps community members in crisis. Call (800) 231-1127, or text “Hello” to chat with a crisis counselor.

• The Oakland County Crisis/Suicide Line — (800) 231-1127.

• OK2SAY — Students can talk to a trusted adult if they see or hear something that doesn’t seem right. They can also report information anonymously using OK2SAY; call (855) 565-2729, text 652729 or email OK2SAY@mi.gov. For emergencies, dial 911.

• Talk to Us — This is the  WBSD anonymous communication tool. Students can say what is on their mind, ask a question, share a concern or make a comment

• Emotional support/mental health — The WBSD has several trained social workers, psychologists, restorative practices coaches and mental health consultants to support students and families.

For families seeking a way to talk with their children about the events, the district recommends the following resources as a starting point:

• The National Association of School Psychologists’ “Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers.”

• Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Coping with Community Crisis.”

Non-specific safety conversations may be more appropriate for younger students and may begin with presentations like this one on the Johns Hopkins site: “Talking to Your Children About Safety” for children in grades K-2 and children in grades 3-5. Using children’s books that use the power of narrative to teach valuable lessons is also a developmentally appropriate method to help young ones process information.  Some examples include:

• The Rabbit Listened — A child has their castle wrecked and animals come and talk to her to give her advice. The rabbit comes to listen to her and she shares her feelings and gets brave to build the castle again.

• After the Fall. Humpty Dumpty gets the courage to climb the wall again.

The district also issued some reminders of appropriate school behavior, noting that violent and threatening behavior will not be tolerated, whether on social media, in person or casually.

“All behavior of this nature will be taken seriously and strict disciplinary measures will be taken,” the district said.

The district noted that over the past several years it has invested in secure main building entrances with locked vestibule entrances, video surveillance cameras throughout the schools and on buses, and enhanced public address systems in schools, along with updated phone and radio systems, to increase the speed of communication throughout the building.

District staff continue to consult with experts to learn about ways in which they can improve student safety and school security, they said.  They noted that they work closely with the West Bloomfield Police Department on a regular basis for guidance and support. All visitors must enter through the secure entryways using the visitor verification system. All exterior doors and windows are locked throughout the school day. Staff members are asked to remain vigilant regarding any doors that may be propped open, the district said. They have been advised to close them immediately and report this information to the main office.

The district schools practice lockdown drills that utilize previous training related to ALICE — Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Communicate and Evacuate training. Each building has an emergency response plan that outlines specific procedures that staff should follow. They regularly share information with law enforcement officers on facilities, training and security drills, which will continue as scheduled in the coming days, the district said.

“Please know that we are committed to doing everything we can to support and protect our students and staff,” Superintendent Gerald Hill said in a statement. “Families can contact their school administrator if additional assistance is needed. We will continue to work with local law enforcement to strengthen our protocols. This incident, unfortunately, reminds us why it is imperative that we come together as a community and support each other. Our thoughts, prayers, and support are with the Oxford community as they move to recover and heal from this devastating event.”

Gutman said that their “hearts go out to the entire Oxford Schools community as they grieve and process the horrible events.”

He said they “remain committed to the safety and security of our students, staff, and families. We continue to review and practice our safety and security measures to ensure the safety of all who learn, work, and play within our buildings.”

Gutman said they take all incidents involving student and staff safety seriously and that they “appreciate our partnerships with local law enforcement officials. We ask students, parents, and community members to report all suspicious or threatening activity to law enforcement and/or school/district administration immediately.”

“Your children are our children, and we will continue to do everything in our control to maintain safety in our schools,” he said. “Thank you for your partnership with us on behalf of our children. Please take care of yourselves and one another.”