The first thought that occurred to Meridian Township Manager Frank Walsh after hearing reports of a shooter in Okemos High School Feb. 7 was utter terror and something within his 32-year career that he had never felt before.
“Today was different, because for anyone who has children at Okemos High School, that was 30 minutes of complete terror,” Walsh said.
Walsh said that two weeks ago, the board made a decision that they knew would cost them between $30,000 and $60,000 to place an extra emergency crew down in the south part of the township.
“Even though there were 30 minutes of terror, there was that one little sliver that said that we are better prepared today than what we would’ve been several months ago,” Walsh said.
Around 9 a.m. that Tuesday, Okemos High School was locked down because of reports of an active shooter inside the high school. The reports were later proven false after the school was in lock down for 30 minutes.
The police arrived on scene just minutes after the call was made that there was a shooter present.
Six other schools throughout Michigan all received threats on Feb. 7 in addition to Okemos.
All of the schools involved in the hoax received phone calls saying that a student had shot another student including room numbers in the school where it was happening, but the room number did not exist.
Meridian Township Trustee Courtney Wisinski, a mother of two Okemos High School students, said as a parent and community leader it was terrifying.
Wisinski saw the fear of the children as they left the building, but since there was police presence from the school all the way to the football field, the students felt safe and confident.
“We are so grateful to have an accredited police department, we’ve got an emergency plan from our fire department, and it worked,” Wisinski said.
“There were a lot of emotions, and there is going to continue to be a lot of emotions. We are here to listen, and to take any of that comment and bring it back to whomever we need to,” Wisinski said.
Hendrickson said this is the time that they should address certain state laws to make schools and the community a safer place.
“We’re lucky today as a community and I think we have to acknowledge that, but also remain vigilant because we may not be so lucky next time,” said Meridian Township Trustee Scott Hendrickson.
“We have our police department and emergency services teams’ readiness and their recertification as comforts, but there is more that we can do,” Hendrickson said. “While much of this is not in our hands to do directly, we can encourage our lawmakers through action by this board to do so.”
The Meridian Township Police Department established where the phone number came from and are continuing to investigate where the person who called was located.
Okemos High School was closed Wednesday, Feb. 8 and the case was turned over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).