Local schools close after blanket threats of violence
By Lisa Brody
In order to be cautious, several local metro Detroit school districts which received identical blanket threats on social media on Wednesday, December 1, closed school on Thursday, December 2, as well as Friday, December 3, including Bloomfield Hills Schools and Birmingham Public Schools, following the shooting incident at Oxford high school on Tuesday.
Bloomfield Hills Superintendent Pat Watson posted on the schools' website at 11 p.m. Wednesday night: “Over the past hour, BHS and other communities across the region have received numerous reports of threats of violence circulating on social media. Out of an abundance of caution, all BHS schools will be closed on Thursday, December 2, 2021. All after school activities are also cancelled.
“The safety and security of our students is our top priority. We are in constant contact with Bloomfield Township Police who take every report or rumor seriously. We will follow up with you tomorrow with any updated information.” On Thursday afternoon, the district announced that it would also close schools on Friday to allow police authorities to fully investigate threats.
Calls to the district were not returned.
While Birmingham Public Schools were open on Thursday, school officials chose to close on Friday, December 3, following a threatening post circulated in which the word “Groves” appeared, superintendent Dr. Embekka Roberson said.
“This was immediately reported to local law enforcement, and the post was investigated. Police have identified the source of the post and as of this time, they do not believe this is a viable threat to anyone’s safety,” she wrote in an email.
While the situation has been addressed and the district does not believe there are other viable threats, they have decided to close Friday in order to use the day for additional ALICE training with staff and professional learning around social-emotional support for students.
“Please partner with us in this work by speaking to your children in age-appropriate ways tomorrow and over the weekend, urging them to reach out to school officials directly or through the State of Michigan’s Okay2Say tip line 8-555-OK2SAY or HYPERLINK "mailto:OKAY2SAY@mi.gov"OKAY2SAY@mi.gov if they hear of any potentially dangerous situations. Remind them how serious it is to make threats and the potential repercussions of such actions. Additionally, if you become aware of a potential safety issue in our district, please follow the same steps as above,” Roberson wrote to parents.
In addition to Birmingham and Bloomfield Hills schools, Avondale, Troy, Rochester, West Bloomfield, Warren, Holly, Walled Lake, Lake Orion, Clawson, Novi, Farmington, Hazel Park, Clarkston, and Lamphere and Madison Heights school districts cancelled school for Thursday, and some for Friday as well. Some private schools in the local area, including Cranbrook Schools, closed down their campuses on Thursday and Friday out of concern over the Oxford shooting incident.
According to a report in The Detroit News, “the Troy School District said it had HYPERLINK "https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/local/oakland-county/2021/12/01/metro-detroit-school-districts-cancel-classes-over-social-media-posts/8832827002/" \n _blanklearned about a Snapchat message where a student in Rochester speculated about a rumored threat to a school in Rochester or Troy. A similar message was being circulated throughout Oakland County replacing 'Troy' with the name of another district," spokeswoman Kerry Birmingham said in an emailed statement.
On Wednesday, a 17-year-old student at Southfield Regional Academic Campus was arrested with a semi-automatic pistol in his pocket, according to reports.
Bloomfield Township Police Chief Phil Langmeyer could not confirm if the threats were by phone or social media, stating it was “still an open investigation.”
“They're the same ones all of the districts received. They're blanket threats,” he confirmed. “A lot of districts across the country are getting the same threats. It's terrible, it's horrible.”
In light of racial incidents at Bloomfield Hills High School in the last few weeks, and a lawsuit by the parent of one alleged impacted Black student, Cedric McCarrall, who on Tuesday, November 30, called for beefed up security at the high school to make sure Black students are kept safe from alleged racist threats, especially after the Oxford High School shootings, Langmeyer said, “We have done that. We have increased our presence – not only at Bloomfield Hills High, but at also at Brother Rice and Marian, Academy of the Sacred Heart, Model and Alternative high schools. We do it both during school and after school. We call it a school check, and we wave to the kids.
“We're not just going to our high schools – we've increased our visits and our presence at all 26 of the schools in the township,” he emphasized. “The middle schools are our secondary focus, and the elementary schools – of course.
“We're keeping our two (school) liaison officers very busy,” Langmeyer said. “We have extra officers at Bloomfield Hills High School before and after school and at lunch, and we'll continue while we're checking up on this until at least Christmas break, and then we'll re-evaluate.
“We want our officers seen – not just in the parking lots. We want them going in, saying 'hi,' being there. Our focus is to keep these kids safe,” he said. “We've had these programs in place before – we're just increasing them even more now.”