By Jim Newell
In what has become an all-to-familiar tragedy, another gunman has gone on a shooting rampage, this time killing 17 people at a Florida high school.
Nikolas Cruz, 19, is the suspect of a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL on Feb. 14. Cruz, who now faces 17 counts of premeditated murder, used a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle, during the attack.
Shortly after the shooting, Lake Orion Community Schools Superintendent Marion Ginopolis issued an open letter to the community addressing the shooting. The full text of the letter is available at the end of this article.
“My heart breaks for these families,” Ginopolis said during the school board meeting that same evening.
Ginopolis said the district has trained school staff in active shooter response procedures and the board of education will have a training session on Feb. 28 during the board’s workshop.
“Hopefully, we’ll never need it,” Ginopolis said.
In her letter to the community – posted on the district’s website and social media accounts – Ginopolis said most district employees have received training in the event of a school shooting:
“In the beginning of the school year, local law enforcement presented our leadership team with critical incident training. Over the past month, nearly all of our staff has experienced a modern training procedure, to intensely pursue this issue.”
Lake Orion schools has trained employees in ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) training, district officials said.
ALICE training involves instructor led classes that “provide preparation and a plan for individuals and organizations on how to more proactively handle the threat of an aggressive intruder or active shooter event,” according to information posted on the ALICE website.
LOCS Communications Director Mark Snyder told the Review that Lake Orion High School has a police liaison officer and also Safe-Ed security personnel who monitor the front entrance and building throughout the day.
All school doors are locked during the day and guests to the elementary and middle schools must ring a doorbell and be buzzed in through the front doors, Snyder said.
“We’re trying to be proactive and prepare for every situation as best we can,” Snyder said. “This is a constant process. We evaluate every year what we’re doing and what we can do better.”
Snyder said the district is “constantly” in contact with Lake Orion Police Chief Jerry Narsh and Lt. Dan Toth of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office to discuss school security issues.
The district does plan to hold a public training session, an “informational presentation” on Lake Orion school safety, and is still working out the details of the presentation, Snyder said.
“We want to share with the community what we’re doing to keep our kids safe,” he said.
Open letter from Superintendent Marion Ginopolis on safety procedures
Dear Lake Orion Community,
There’s no easy way to start this communication because any way we start it, or finish it, or anything in the details cannot ease our fear, concern, or anger. What happened Wednesday in Parkland, Florida is our worst nightmare.
Despite being hundreds of miles away, we grieve with the families affected by this tragedy. We also fear that this could happen anywhere.
As school administrators, these are constant thoughts, not only when these tragedies occur, but every day. That’s why I want to share with you what we’re doing about it.
In the beginning of the school year, local law enforcement presented our leadership team with critical incident training. Over the past month, nearly all of our staff has experienced a modern training procedure, to intensely pursue this issue.
Earlier this school year, we sent select staff members to a multi-day training in the techniques and procedures developed by law enforcement to respond to critical incidents such as the one that occurred in Florida. Those district employees have now guided our staff at every building and have tailored the procedures specifically for our school district. This is all-encompassing, as even our school board members are being trained.
We are also assessing our facilities and our procedures and will bring students into the fold, with ageappropriate preparation. These are not easy conversations; not from us to you, not from you to your children, but they are critical. We’re equipping our staff to be prepared for the worst, while their daily job pushes for our students’ best.
We will also be conducting a public training session for parents or anyone interested in learning the techniques, which apply throughout society.
Even in our professional roles, we still care like parents, because most of us are. Wednesday ended the same way for us, with an extra hug and kiss for our children and grandchildren, an extra “I love you” in the morning, and the thoughts about what we can do to have so many more of those.
Every decision we make is to protect and nurture your children. We hope by sharing our process with you, there’s reassurance that your child’s safety is our top priority every day.