Hate, bias issues reviewed while threats continue
By Lisa Brody
Bloomfield Hills Schools families and Bloomfield Township officials received updates this week on safety and racial issues facing the general community.
Bloomfield Hills Schools Superintendent Pat Watson sent an email to district families on Tuesday, December 14, to report on the progress of the district is making on incidents of hate and bias over the last several weeks, while Bloomfield Township Police Chief Phil Langmeyer reported to the Bloomfield Township Board of Trustees on Monday, December 13, that the department has been stymied in their efforts to assist the district in the racial incidents, and that they continue to investigate threats against the 26 schools in the township in light of the Oxford High School mass shooting.
According to Bloomfield Township police reports, there were three incidents of racist social media messages and racist graffiti in bathrooms at Bloomfield Hills High School in November.
“The first incident, we weren't notified until it was cleaned up,” Langmeyer said. He said all three incidents are being investigated by the police school liaison.
“The problem is, no one is talking to us. Students are being advised by parents not to talk to us,” he said.
They are receiving guidance from an assistant Michigan attorney general.
Watson reported that the high school held grade level assemblies on Friday, November 19, at which “Bloomfield Township police, Watson, Principal Hollerith, and a crisis counselor spoke to our students about recent hate incidents, potential school and legal consequences, and the mental health impact that threats, racism, and bullying have on students, families, and the community… On November 29, high school students heard an update and some next steps from Hollerith in a broadcast to classrooms during the first period. Following the broadcast, first period teachers addressed their classrooms to review the district’s hate incidents procedures and Bias & Hate Incident reporting tool...(which) is posted on all teacher canvas pages. Students were given time to individually review the procedure document and mark the sentence, phrase or word they felt was particularly important to discuss in small groups. The classrooms then debriefed with their teachers on questions they had related to the procedure document or reporting tool.”
District officials are working with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to provide anti-bias training to the high school's staff. “We are committed to working with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on all of our schools becoming "No Place for Hate” schools,” Watson said.
Watson said the district is in the process of hiring a supervisor of students and restorative practices. “This position will contribute to building a positive school climate and support the high school. administration by reviewing cases of bullying, cyber bullying, hate speech, and violations of the Student Code of Conduct.”
Bloomfield Township Police Chief Langmeyer informed trustees that the department dispatched officers and detectives to Oxford High School when news broke of the shooting, and in the following days, “we had a number of officers who offered to help in Oxford during their time off, and will continue to help.”
He said there continues to be recent threats to the township's 26 schools, notably to the seven public, private and parochial schools, and they have assigned extra officers in every high school.
“Investigators are looking into hundreds of different threats. We had three more today,” he said. “These threats are all across the township, not just at the high school. We are investigating every single one. If we can track it back to someone, we are turning it over to the Oakland County Prosecutor.” He noted the past weekend they were able to trace a specific threat to a 15-year-old Bloomfield Hills High School student, who was charged in Oakland County Circuit Court.
“We are getting called all the time by OK2Say – that's a good thing,” Langmeyer continued. “The downside, we're struggling to keep up. We're finding a lot of these aren't even originating from around here. We are dedicated to keeping our schools safe.”