More Law Enforcement in Saline Schools As School Officials, Police Investigate More Rumors of Threats

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There are more law enforcement officers at Saline High School and other school buildings today as police and school officials investigate more social media posts suggesting threats of violence at Saline High School.

But students and teachers carrying on - with fewer students in the buildings. Superintendent Steve Laatsch said police and school officials do not believe there is any credibility to the rumored threats.

"This morning, we have been investigating more social media posts suggesting that there is a threat to Saline High School. Pittsfield Department of Public Safety and Saline PD have fully investigated this and have determined that there is no credible threat to Saline High School or any of our school buildings. Out of an abundance of caution, we have additional police personnel on campus at Saline High School to ease concerns," Laatsch wrote. "Our schools are safe to operate as normal."

Saline High School Principal David Raft wrote a similar letter to the district last night.

Questions about the social media rumors sent to Saline Police Chief Jerrod Hart and Pittsfield DPS Director Matt Harshbarger last night have not yet been answered. Ann Arbor's Superintendent reported yesterday that many of the threat school districts are seeing are same image - with the school's name changed.

On social media, parents talked about the decision to send their kids to school or keep them home.

"My kids went to school, but I received a text from my high school senior expressing serious concern among the body of students who attended school today (she said the number was about half) regarding a threat to do something at the start of 5th hour. She is leaving early," Christin Soranno wrote in the Saline Posts Facebook group.

Parents reported anxiety is high among students. Rebecca Smith said she gave her son the choice to attend school and he decided to attend.  But earlier today he texted and said he wanted to go home after his quiz. 

Bob Woehlke said he gave his two high school students the option of attending and both decided to go.

"They are to call me if they feel uncomfortable and I will call them out of class if the need arises," Woehlke wrote.

Yesterday, Michigan Radio reported 60 school districts in Michigan canceled classes on Dec. 2 due to the social media rumors of copycats after the murders at Oxford High School.

Saline Area Schools officials maintain that students are safe today. An email to parents today recalled the improvements made to the district in 2016 to keep students "safe, warm and dry." Among the bond projects was a visitor screening system. The letter also spoke about strengthened relations with local and federal police, and increased safety drills in the district.

Laatsch said Saline teachers' and administrators' relationships with students will help keep students safe.

"I am very confident in the way in which our district administration, teaching staff and support staff make close connections with our students. Our staff is excellent at monitoring social media and email. Our building principals are always very responsive to inappropriate/concerning emails that get flagged in our filters," Laatsch wrote in the letter.

The letter also urged anyone with information about safety issues to use OK2Say's confidential reporting system to submit tips.

Here is the full text of the letter:

Oxford High School Incident - Saline Area Schools Response

It was very difficult and heart wrenching to watch the tragedy unfold at Oxford High School this past week. Our thoughts and prayers continue to go out to the victims and the entire Oxford community as they grapple with this horrible tragedy.

Parents and community members have asked about our own safety procedures within the Saline Area Schools. As you may recall, the theme of our 2016 Bond was “Safe, Secure, Warm and Dry” and with the support of our voters we were able to secure our schools and install buzzer systems and safety glass in each building. In addition, we are currently using a visitor management system (RAPTOR) to screen visitors. Finally, we have strengthened our relationships with the Saline Police Department, the Pittsfield Department of Public Safety and the FBI to monitor and assess potential threats.

The State of Michigan also requires several school safety drills each year. The number and type of drills are specified and must be performed in every school building. Schools may conduct additional drills, and Saline does add two additional drills for cardiac/medical emergencies.

FIRE/EVACUATION DRILLS: Five per year, three before December 1 and two after

SAFETY/SECURITY/LOCKDOWN: Three per year, one before December 1 and one after January 1

TORNADO/WEATHER EMERGENCY: Two. One must be conducted in March

Drills are often scenario-based. Teachers and building administrators provide guidance and training, as well as rationale and reassurance, to the students. Research shows that the way in which we practice is the way in which we will perform during an actual emergency.

I am very confident in the way in which our district administration, teaching staff and support staff make close connections with our students. Our staff is excellent at monitoring social media and email. Our building principals are always very responsive to inappropriate/concerning emails that get flagged in our filters. Also, we have a system called Handle with Care that alerts us to criminal issues / police reports (EX: domestic abuse) that sometimes develop in some of our households in Saline.

The outstanding relationship that our principals, counselors and social workers have developed with our students, have helped to support students who may be demonstrating concerning behavior. We also find that our students tend to have trusting relationships with administration, teaching and support staff, and, as a result, our students report "strange" behavior to our staff if they feel like something should be investigated. Our staff is very proactive about monitoring student behaviors.

To further support this, there are posters in every school building about how to use OK2SAY. Students can provide tips anonymously. OK2SAY allows students to confidentially report tips on potential harm or criminal activities directed at students, school employees, and schools. The goal of OK2SAY is to stop harmful behavior before it occurs by encouraging anyone to report threatening behavior to caring adult authorities who can help. Please visit OK2SAY for more information and resources.

What can you do to help?

  1. Encourage your children to talk to trusted adults in our school buildings about any suspicious behavior that they might hear about in their classrooms, hallways, lunchrooms, on recess, etc.
  2. Make sure your children are aware of OK2SAY (see above) and how they can use it
  3. Monitor your child’s use of social media. Talk to them about what they are seeing or hearing on social media.
  4. Talk to your child, on a regular basis, about their school day, how they are feeling and how they are engaged in school.

SAS will continue to update our safety protocols, training and security enhancements moving forward. Thank you all for being partners in keeping our schools safe for our students and staff.

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