In light of the recent school shootings in Broward County, Florida, it is important that we come together as a community to review our processes and procedures in the event of a crisis. As many of you may recall, we had a situation in September of 2014 where two learners were plotting to hurt staff and learners at Tecumseh High School. At the time, I wrote a column for the Tecumseh Herald sharing what we found to be the key in uncovering what could have been a very tragic event. Below is an excerpt from my column in the Tecumseh Herald in September of 2014:
I would like to speak personally about this situation and the impact that it has had on our school community. First I need to say that this is “personal”—not just to me but to our Administrative Team. Most members of our team have children of their own walking the halls at TPS. If they don’t now, they have in the recent past. Safety of our students is always our primary concern. What kept our students safe? Was it the buzzer system at the front door? Was it the sign in/sign out policy we have in our district? Those may have helped. I will argue that the primary reason that this plot did not become an implemented plan was due to the adults in this community who care about our children. This includes the two community members who called in anonymous tips that morning. It includes the high school custodian who builds relationships with students during the work day and took the time to mention to an administrator a concern about one of the students. It includes our high school administrative team who took this information seriously and spent two entire days (morning and night) piecing together the information as it was received. It includes our high school staff who continued to monitor students in the classroom throughout this investigation; providing our students with normalcy throughout the investigation. That, in my opinion, is what kept our students safe.
On Thursday, our Leadership Team came together to review our processes and spent much time reviewing the actions that kept everyone safe that September day in 2014. We stand by the fact that, in addition to our security measures, it was the relationships that did and will continue to keep your children safe.
Our district, in partnership with local law enforcement, has been trained in A.L.I.C.E. A.L.I.C.E stands for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter and Evacuate. The A.L.I.C.E. initiative is recognized across the country as an additional component to the traditional “lockdown” response. This process provides appropriate action steps for learners and staff to take in order to stay safe in the event of an active shooter or active threat in the school building or on campus. Our school buildings all have secure access points with buzz in access;allowing for increased security measures during the school day.
We cannot do this work alone. We need the entire community to support the safety of our learners. It is important that parents learn more about the warning signs connected to this type of behavior. Some behaviors to be aware of include violent fantasies, anger problems, fascination with weapons, introverted personality, suicidal or homicidal ideation, stalking, interest in previous shootings, paranoia, violence and cruelty, acting out, police contact, mental health issues, use of alcohol and drugs, and unusual interest in police, military, and terrorist activities. Experts say a single warning sign by itself might not be significant, but a cluster of warning signs is much more serious. If your child feels that there may be a threat to the safety of learners, please have them share this information with a trusted adult. Concerns may also be reported through the OK2SAY program hosted by the State of Michigan. The OK2SAY website is a 24-hour anonymous tip line. Tecumseh Public Schools participates in the OK2SAY program and you can find additional information on their website.
We need your support in helping our children cope with the painful feelings and emotions that may have been triggered by this tragic event. Below are a links to resources that may be helpful in this process:
The Leadership Team of Tecumseh Public Schools wants you to know that the safety of our learners and staff is our top priority. Many districts talk about safety, but we have had a chance to implement our process when it mattered most. We are vigilant across the district in building and maintaining relationships. We will continue to update our policies and practices to reflect new learnings from law enforcement and will continue to work hand in hand; ensuring that we are on the same page on how to handle situations as they arise.
We will continue to be diligent in our efforts to create a web of support for your children. We know that a safe environment is key to the learning environment. Thank you for your support in helping our district provide the safe learning environment our children deserve.
Kelly M. Coffin, Ed. D.