BHS, other districts on alert to school threats
By Lisa Brody
As the calendar nears the one-year anniversary of the tragic Oxford High School shooting of November 30, 2021, local school districts and law enforcement are on heightened alert to threats coming in, and are urging parents to be active partners in preventing another tragedy, or from having their teens making false threats.
A joint letter was sent out this week from Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Pat Watson, Bloomfield Township Police Chief James Gallagher, West Bloomfield Police Chief Michael Patton, Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Captain Jeff Gormley, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald and Bloomfield Township Supervisor Dani Walsh, stating, “School threats have increased dramatically. Together with our local law enforcement agencies and the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office, Bloomfield Hills Schools wanted to share what districts are observing in our county and how parents can be proactive partners with the police and districts in preventing school violence… Across Oakland County, students have been making bomb threats, writing threats on walls, and verbalizing threats. These threats have been made in and out of school, including on social media. Social media posts have included challenges to see which school district can have the most lockdowns. After making verbal and written threats, students often insist the threats are jokes, or that they were just seeking attention. This past year, the Oakland County Prosecutor's Office has charged 42 cases of school threats. Whereas in the year prior to November 30, 2020, there was only one case charged by the office.”
Just this past week, Ferndale and Hazel Park schools were closed due to threatening social media posts, and two students at Ferndale High School have been arrested and charged with making threats to the school community on social media.
“The reality is that these incidents and threats scare students, faculty, and staff. These are not funny, and they cannot be taken lightly. These actions disrupt the learning atmosphere for everyone and have destroyed friendships and families. Any type of threat, joking or not, can have significant consequences,” the letter continued.
Bloomfield Hills Schools emphasized that they take all reported threats seriously, and they are thoroughly investigated, even though they will not make all of the incidents and investigations public.
“While a district cannot share specific discipline related to an incident or investigation, what we can share is that depending on the results of investigations, threats made by students may result in suspension and possible expulsion,” the letter emphasized.
Parents are urged to work with school officials and law enforcement by knowing the codes to access their children's electronic devices, and to monitor and search them regularly for inappropriate content and photographs; if there are weapons in the home, make sure they are safely secured and stored. Authorities noted that no weapon, including a pocket knife, is ever permitted in school.
They also recommend parents monitor social media accounts, noting the age to open an account is 13 on all social media platforms. “Consider downloading an app to help create parental controls on your child’s technology,” the letter said.
Importantly, anyone can report tips confidentially to OK2SAY, Michigan’s anonymous reporting system, by calling 855.565.2729, texting 652729, downloading the OK2SAY app, or emailing OK2SAY@mi.gov.