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Oxford adds security measures, delays reopening of high school

Oxford – Increased security measures are in place in the Oxford School District, including a permanent police presence, trauma counselors in each building, secure rooms run by a crisis team and therapy dogs.

Reunited for the first time since a deadly shooting at their high school claimed the lives of four students on November 30, the Oxford Board of Education learned on Tuesday how the district is adjusting its operations from Jill Lemond, deputy superintendent of student services.

Elementary and secondary school classes remain closed for the week while the high school has remained closed since the November 30 shooting in which 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana; Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; and Justin Shilling, 17, were killed and seven others injured.

Meanwhile, Superintendent Tim Throne told reporters ahead of the board meeting that the Jan. 3 provisional reopening for the high school is no longer realistic.

“I don’t think we’re going to be able to answer that. … We work day and night. The governor’s office tried to open up some supply chains for us. … We know it is important to get our children back to school as soon as possible, ”said Throne.

None of the security changes required council action on Tuesday night, Lemond said, as they are temporary in nature. Lemond said they are in effect this week in elementary and middle schools, which have resumed classes, and will be in January when school resumes after winter break. She didn’t have an end date, but added that any long-term changes would require a change in school policy.

Lori Bourgeau, 45, mother of a junior at Oxford High School, speaks during the Oxford Education Council meeting at Oxford Middle School on Tuesday, December 14, 2021.

Among the changes:

• Addition of an additional police presence for the “foreseeable future” beyond the person in charge of school resources and armed security guards already present in the neighborhood. The district is in the process of asking a private security firm to hire a security guard for each building.

• Hiring a private security firm to perform a comprehensive security review.

• Stop using backpacks for a while and switch to transparent backpacks in the future.

• Using Gaggle and GoGuardian to monitor social media activity.

• Place a licensed trauma counselor in each building for acute and long-term support.

• Designation and training of the building crisis team to operate “secure rooms”.

• Use of therapy dogs.

The security update also calls for “zero tolerance” on the part of law enforcement and school administrators. Lemond explained that the zero tolerance policy means that any student making a violent threat or creating violent images at school would be immediately removed from the school – and not suspended or expelled – and school administrators and the official. school resources would be immediately informed.

The student could only return after the completion of a third-party mental health exam.

“There is no room for discretion right now,” Lemond told the board. “Any student who provides something violent or threatening in any way whatsoever is not educated. The administration gets involved, the police get involved.

On Tuesday evening, parents were able to address school officials in the first formal session since the mass shooting. Some took the opportunity to point the finger at the board of directors and the policies in place before the shooting.

“Who gives the example of the destination of complaints (concerning students)? Said Lori Bourgeau, 45, Oxford Village councilor and parent of a grade 11 student.

“You let him stay with the counselor and the dean of students, only. Search for ammunition. Letters, shooting photos and there is no disciplinary file? It’s not good. Don’t let a child come in and look for ammunition and go back to class. You set the tone. I wish you had done it a month ago. You could have saved lives.

Shane Gibson, 43, told council that his 8-year-old daughter “asked me if I sent her to school, if she was going to die. She asked me this question the other day, and to tell you my heart broke is an understatement. “

“The loss of the innocence of these children is most heartbreaking,” he said. “My son and daughter will live with this for the rest of their lives. “

Gibson asked the board about “another loss”.

“How are we going to get back to some normalcy,” he said. “… How are we going to give my children the education they deserve? Because right now, every time a threat is called, they are sent home. Every time a threat is called out. , they don’t go to school the next day. And I’m okay with that because I want them to be safe. But what are we going to do as a school board, as a school district, to make sure there isn’t another loss, and it’s the loss of their education, one that’s rightfully theirs? “

The decision of Oxford school staff not to fire Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old suspect accused of shooting four students and injuring seven others inside the school, just before the events of November 30, has become a central point of concern among investigators and prosecutors assessing the case.

Crumbley’s behavior, drawings, online research and internet posts caught the attention of Oxford high school officials before the shooting as they addressed the teenager in several response meetings .

On the day of the shooting, one of Crumbley’s teachers saw and reported to councilors graphic designs with violent images and calls for help, according to police and school officials.

Crumbley reportedly told advisers when taken to the office that his design was part of a video game he was designing and that he planned to pursue a career in video game design, Throne said in a statement. Crumbley stayed in the office for about 90 minutes and worked on homework while the school tried to reach his parents.

After talking to parents James and Jennifer Crumbley in the school office and again to their son, Oxford school counselors concluded that he had no intention of harming himself or others, Throne said. Her parents were told they had 48 hours to seek counseling for their child or that the school would contact child protection services. They were asked to bring their son home for the day, but they “categorically” refused and left without their son, Throne said.

In the end, the counselors chose to release Crumbley from the main office in the school on the day of the shooting – and not to involve the school administrators or the police.

“Since the child had not committed any disciplinary offense before, it was decided that he would be sent back to class rather than sent home to an empty house. These incidents remained at the guidance counselor level and were never elevated to the director or assistant level. director’s office, ”Throne said.

A day earlier, a teacher had also seen the teenager searching for ammunition online.

Experts say Oxford school officials had no choice but to allow Crumbley to stay in school, and most schools use a team approach – made up of a school counselor, d a school administrator and a school official – to make decisions about what to do with a student whose behavior raises safety concerns for the school.

Throne is named among several defendants in a $ 100 million lawsuit filed by two survivors that accuses school officials of failing to end an attack that inflicted physical and psychological injuries on students.

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Associated Press contributed.