On Feb. 7, students were released early from Okemos School District after a false shooting report. A week later, the Okemos Board of Education responded to the hoax and began moving forward with safety precautions and communication plans.
Superintendent John Hood gave a “non-inclusive list” of current safety and security measures that the school has taken on with the help of Dr. Margaret Coggins who is focused on prevention/threat assessment and Jason Russell who focuses on facilities/responses.
“These two experts have really been helping us figure out what are the best practices that the Okemos Schools can put into place, they’re defining our successes in areas where we can improve for the district,” Hood said.
As another security measure for the district, Hood explained that “the district has applied for many general school security grants where we are proud to say that the state of Michigan is providing some significant funding regarding security to schools.”
Hood explained some opportunities for the district to learn through different departments in the community and feedback responses as well as sharing opportunities such as training for staff, countywide sharing with other districts, and more.
“This is still pretty new and fresh to us so we’ll be coming up with a process for feedback and again we will include our staff, law enforcement, and community in that and from there will share updates with you as soon as we know those specifics,” he said.
He also listed community support resources for students, staff, parents, or community members who may need them.
“We are very aware that the next time we do a drill there could be some trauma involved for students and staff so we are proactively planning for when and how that will happen,” Hood said.
Police Chief Ken Plaga walked the group through the events of Feb. 7.
“9:05 AM was when one of the first calls came in where we went right into action,” Plaga said, adding that they assumed it was a real and “actual” threat of violence to the community.
“We had about 100 respondents to these calls,” Plaga said.
The event showed the Meridian Charter Township that “the school was prepared” and that it truly was going to affect lives forever, Plaga said.
Following Plaga, Ingham County Sheriff Scott Wrigglesworth said he was “pleased on how the school reacted” and much discipline and maturity was shown by the students and staff.
Hood thanked the first responders including Michigan State Police, Lansing Police Department, Michigan State University Police and Public Safety, and more.
“Knowing and practicing our plans made a huge difference as well as the relationship we have with law enforcement,” Hood said.
He also thanked all Okemos Public Schools for keeping everyone safe by listing staff and departments including Okemos Education Association, Okemos Transportation Association, leadership, directors, and more.
The conclusion of this part of the meeting included public comments including State Representative Julie Brixie.
Brixie’s children graduated from Okemos Public Schools and came to share updates on what the legislature has been doing to support not just this district but others in the area.
“We just dropped a packet of bills just last week regarding school safety,” and continued to discuss some of the things included in that package being “modifying the required school safety drills, requiring one active shooter drill, requiring schools to update safety plans at least once every three years, establishing a requirement for schools to adopt school safety plans and training plans for staff,” Brixie said.
Brixie thanked the board and said, “I can’t even imagine what it would’ve been like to have kids in the school and to be responsible for these children’s safety and all of the staff people’s safety during such a terrible incident.”
For more information regarding the Feb. 13 meeting, visit the Okemos Public Schools website.