How Lansing Area Schools and Police Prepare for threats from active riflemen
Should there be a threat to the Ovid Elsie Schools, Superintendent Ryan Cunningham has confidence that students and teachers know what to do to stay safe.
They do exercises several times a year – both in the middle of class, during lunch breaks or in between – and have installed the SmartBoot system, developed by a Fowlerville company, across the district.
If someone uses the “boot” – a small steel plate that can barricade a door and make it almost impossible to open – in a classroom, this triggers an alarm throughout the school with flashing red lights and a verbal “lockdown” alarm, Called Cunningham.
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Teachers can use a tablet to get help or call 911, and Cunningham can see where the call for help came from, he said. When the “boot” is deployed, all administrators in the district will know.
“It’s a pretty smooth system,” said Cunningham.
Ovid-Elsie bought this system, as well as strong blast shields for doors and windows, with the help of a government grant, Cunningham said. Their cameras, upgraded to have no blind spots, are linked to shipping so law enforcement can access the feed when needed.
Ovid-Elsie Schools are working with local police departments, the Clinton County Sheriff’s Department and County Dispatch to ensure everyone is aware of the plan should an attack occur on a school, as was the case in Oxford on Tuesday afternoon was.
Four teenagers – Hana St. Juliana, 14, Tate Myre, 16, Madisyn Baldwin, 17, and Justin Shilling, 17 – attended Oxford High School. A 15-year-old student was charged with terrorism, four times murder, seven times attempted murder, and twelve gun crimes.
Training in schools
The way Ovid-Elsie has been trained to deal with school shootings is similar to many other counties, although most don’t have the same technology.
Schools are required to conduct at least three safety drills a year, state Superintendent Michael Rice wrote in an email to the districts.
In Charlotte, teachers and staff review emergency response plans annually, Superintendent Mandy Stewart said. Teachers have applications on their phones that they can use to lock the school if necessary. The app allows teachers to communicate with both the district and local law enforcement so they know when it is safe to get out.
“We think it’s important that a lockdown can be accessed by anyone, not just headquarters,” said Stewart.
She attended a high school lockdown exercise on Monday. When she walked through the hallways and checked the doors, it was quiet. The students behaved as they should, she said.
“I think the students are prepared, but that’s why we need reviews and training,” Stewart said. “I think it is important for the community to know that we are aware of concerns that arise and that we are vigilant to ensure students and staff alike know how to respond in a crisis … Our safety is a priority. We do everything in our power to ensure that students and staff are safe. ”
Local police departments or sheriff’s offices said they are working closely with schools to make sure they have a plan for active violence.
Andy Daenzer, head of the Ingham County Sheriff’s division, said while giving advice to districts on how best to respond to active violence, it is up to the administrators to set the district’s plan of action.
Meridian Township Sgt. Ed Besonen said he sits down with someone from each school district each year to discuss contingency plans and exercises for the upcoming school year. When they are doing exercises, officers are present to make sure things are done correctly.
Robert Merritt, director of public information for the Lansing Police Department, said they train annually with other law enforcement agencies in the area on how to deal with active violence in places like schools, businesses, theaters and concerts.
They use empty school buildings and offices during the scenario-based training to make it as realistic as possible, Merritt said.
Eaton County first responders have been training actor patients, fake bombs and hostage-taking at Charlotte High School, Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said.
It’s all preparation, not prevention, he said.
“You never know when something will happen,” said Reich.
“We really can’t train ourselves out of this tragedy”
Even in Oxford, where first responders handled the situation “perfectly”, it was still not enough to protect all students, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said at a news conference Wednesday.
“The reaction went perfectly, but three or four children were killed and multiple injuries occurred, which suggests that we really cannot train our way out of this tragedy,” said McDonald.
Students and teachers used what they learned during the classes, turned their desks and barricaded the door, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said during a news conference. That saved lives. Police saw shots being fired through doors and barricades.
“The best preventive way we’ve ever seen is to make sure everyone is talking about something they’ve seen, heard or experienced so that it can be investigated, to put training and protocols in place,” Bouchard said Wednesday.
But more needs to be done than just education in schools, found Michigan State University psychology professors John Carlson and Sydney Nelson and Towson University professor HaeDong Kim.
Their studies suggested that school safety is maximized when the school’s physical environment, procedures and mental health treatment are “hardened,” they wrote. Hardening the school’s physical environment requires things like improved technology, metal detectors, locked doors, and security cameras.
Cathy Brunton’s granddaughter goes to Holt High School. She said she was worried about the girl’s safety.
Last month, her granddaughter saw on social media that there was going to be some kind of gang fight that day, Brunton said. She didn’t go to school out of fear.
Brunton said she wanted to install metal detectors in schools to keep students safe.
Contact reporter Kara Berg at 517-377-1113 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @ karaberg95.