DEARBORN/DEARBORN HEIGHTS — In response to the Nov. 30 Oxford school shooting that left four students dead, local school leaders are addressing concerns of parents in their districts.
Dearborn, D7 and Crestwood public school districts all confirmed that they have ALICE training.
ALICE is an acronym for Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate and the training is aimed at providing hands-on instruction for how to respond to emergency situations, including active shooters.
“During this difficult time, our thoughts remain with Oxford students, teachers and staff who were impacted,” Superintendent of Crestwood Schools Dr. Youssef Mosallam said in a letter to parents. “We understand news of this nature so close to home can be difficult for both parents and students. Please know that our students’ safety and well-being remain our number one priority. Like all school districts, the Crestwood Schools are committed to creating a safe school environment where students can learn and grow.”
Some of the security measures Crestwood Schools has in place include security team members who are always visible and available, active emergency drills, school social workers and psychologists to support those with emotional and social needs, and the ALICE protocol.
Things need to be reported. Everything is credible until determined not to be. — Dearborn Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko
Mosallam told The Arab American News that while the district has not had any threats, if there were, the district is prepared.
“We immediately kick in security protocol if a concern is raised,” he said. “We investigate the concern and identify if there is a threat or if someone is in need of help. The only way we can do this is by working together.”
Mosallam also said that he has a direct line of communication with Dearborn Heights Police Chief Mark Meyers and they continue to work together to evaluate the security planning and preparedness.
“Our first and foremost responsibility is the safety and security of students, staff and the community,” he said. “While we are confident in these safety protocols, we know that we need the support of the entire community to protect the children we are privileged to serve. If you hear or see something, report it and say something.”
In a second letter to parents, Mosallam pleaded with them to help.
“We are staffed with counselors, social workers, school psychologists and trained staff who are always available to support you and your children,” the letter read. “Additionally, all of our school administrators have an open door policy for you to feel comfortable to discuss and bring concerns or ideas to support our children. We also need your help. We need you to speak with your children on the importance of speaking up when they see something, hear something or are concerned about something. Look around us, we have people in our school district who live here, play here, dine here and love being here. No one is here to do anything other than help.”
Mosallam’s letter also said that some children use toy guns and/or BB guns as a means to feel protected or empowered and that narrative has to change.
“We must work together to share the message that as parents and as a community we are here for one another,” the letter read. “We must change the narrative that too many of our children believe that respect or power comes from violent or physical actions. We must all share the same message that, ‘authority, power and wealth do not change a person, they only reveal them’ and we must teach our children to reveal their intellectual and humanistic power through thought, words and empathy.”
Mosallam also encouraged parents to practice and discuss gun safety with their children and that the district plans on discussing the topics of safety and security with students.
“We will always do everything in our power to keep our students safe,” he told The Arab American News. “Our focus for next week, as we are virtual this week, is to talk about safety protocols and why we do what we do to help students understand that we are here to keep them safe. We work hand-in-hand with the Police Department and will continue to put safety first.”
D7 in Dearborn Heights also practices the ALICE protocol.
“We understand news of this nature so close to home can be difficult for both parents and students,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Cyr said in a letter to the district. “Please know that your student’s safety and well-being remain our number one priority. Like all school districts, the Dearborn Heights School District 7 is committed to creating a safe school environment where students can learn and grow.”
In addition to the ALICE training, the district has camera surveillance in all buildings, security guard presence, police presence, exterior locking doors, school counselors and social workers.
“Our district has a strong partnership with the Dearborn Heights Police Department,” the letter read. “In particular, regarding this issue, Chief Mark Meyers is offering a stronger police presence for the foreseeable future at O.W. Best Middle School. This police presence is in addition to School Resource Officer Graf at Annapolis High School. There will also be an increased police patrol presence district-wide.”
The letter said that while the district is confident in these safety protocols, it needs community support as well.
“We take all incidents involving student and staff safety seriously and appreciate our partnerships with local law enforcement officials,” the letter read. “We ask students, parents and community members to report all suspicious or threatening activity to law enforcement and/or school/district administration immediately. We understand that our students, families, teachers and staff will need support in the coming days. Please know that our counselors will be available to our school community. Do not hesitate to reach out to our administration, teaching staff and counselors should you or your child need support. Your children are our children and we will continue to do everything in our control to maintain safety in our schools.”
Dearborn Public Schools recently signed an agreement passed by the City Council, allowing Dearborn police access to livestream from their security cameras in the event of an emergency and also practice the ALICE training.
“We have emergency plans in place and we implement the most concurrent plans,” Superintendent Dr. Glenn Maleyko said. “Training is extremely important. We work with the chief of police and have school resource officers in the buildings. We need people to report anything of concern. We take threats and concerns very seriously and investigate with the police. We consider any threat or concern viable until proven otherwise.”
Maleyko issued a letter to parents extending prayers and condolences while thanking first responders.
“As a lifelong educator and superintendent, events such as this are my greatest fear,” the letter read. “However, as a father, I struggle to even try to put into words the deep emotions and feelings that I know all parents experience at a time like this. The Oxford School community is suffering a great emotional and physical loss.”
Maleyko told The Arab American News that he is confident in the plans in place to keep Dearborn schools safe.
“I want to do everything I can and have all possible tools to keep students safe,” he said. “We have social workers in place and are here to listen, but we will not force the subject as many kids may not want to talk about it. We are aware of the need for social and emotional support right now as we have two issues here: This and COVID. Our schools are safe and we continue to prepare for any situation.”
Maleyko also said that the best thing for anyone to do is report anything suspicious or concerning, even if it seems like a joke.
“If you see or hear something, say something,” he said. “We are a safe district and always have been. We need support from parents, students and the community. Things need to be reported. Everything is credible until determined not to be.”
Anyone with concerns can contact their children’s school directly or they can reach out through the State of Michigan’s Okay2Say tip line at 855-OK2SAY or OKAY2SAY@mi.gov.