Safer, Smarter, Stronger: LOCS hosts Safety Summit to fill in parents, community on school safety measures

By Megan Kelley
Review Writer
ORION TWP. — On April 17, Lake Orion Community Schools administrators held their first Safety Summit at Lake Orion High School to review the district’s safety and security practices, provide information on potential future improvements and answer questions from parents and community members.
Superintendent Ben Kirby hosted the summit, with several key members of administration and the district’s safety committee present as well as Village of Lake Orion Police Chief Harold Rossman, Orion Township Substation Commander Darren Ofiara and Lieutenant Stephen Dooley from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.
“We’re living in an unprecedented time. There’s been tragedies across the country that have been well documented,” Kirby said. “Safety and security, in our belief, it’s certainly the responsibility we have. It’s a collaborative responsibility for the community as well, we all play a part in this. At Lake Orion Community Schools we believe we have a responsibility to provide a safe, welcoming and equitable learning environment where all individuals are respected and valued.”
Kirby also highlighted the Five D’s: deter, delay, defuse, defend and debrief.
“What types of things can we do to try to deter intruders or those with bad intentions from coming into the building? What can we do to delay if they do approach our buildings? And then what can we do to defuse problems? What can we do to defend problems if they do occur? And lastly, if we do have an incident, to debrief about the situation and to try to get better from it,” said Kirby.
Preventative Strategies
The district developed what they call a three-ring strategy: the three stages of potential entry into a LOCS building. The first ring are the building grounds and exterior doors. The second ring is the secure vestibule as well as the administration office. The third ring is once people are inside the building.
“These three rings really speak to the physical nature of facilities from the preventative aspect of security protection for the staff and the children,” said John Fitzgerald, assistant superintendent of business and finance.
See last week’s Lake Orion Review for more on preventative strategies.
Student Supports and Risk Assessment
“Mental health is key. Our school culture is so very important. The relationships that our staff have and our Safe-Ed our SRO have with our students, it really makes a huge difference. The physical make-up really makes a huge difference,” Kirby said.
For the diffuse and delay D’s, the district uses a research-based threat assessment and many staff members have been trained in resources available.
“LOCS has many proactive supports at all levels that are based on the CASEL (Collaborative for Academic Social Emotional Learning) framework which is evidence and research based,” said Curriculum Director Kerri Anderson.
At the elementary level, the district has general education social workers, the Positivity Project, family school coordinators and the SARA project.
At the middle school level, the district has behaviorists and STAR (Student/Teacher Affective Relationships).
At the high school, there is a general education social worker and the Sources of Strength program.
Starting next year, students at all levels will be expected to be screened three times a year using the district’s SAEBRS (Social, Academic, Emotional Behavior Risk Screener) program.
LOCS has also implemented the Comprehensive School Threat Assessment Guidelines (CSTAG) model. There are 80 LOCS staff members trained in CSTAG, which includes a number of staff members at every building and at a variety of levels.
“We have moved to a system here in our district that helps us be consistent in addressing certain student behaviors that are a little bit more serious than the day-to-day behaviors that we sometimes see,” Secondary Curriculum Director Drew Towlerton said. “This is a comprehensive approach to violence prevention that emphasizes early attention and warning signs.”
Under this model, building level threat assessment teams have been extensively trained. Additionally, it involves a five-step decision tree model.
“At the crux of all of this is the development of a safety plan which is rooted in student and staff well-being and that we can ensure that all students are safe when we are made aware of different situations,” Towlerton said.
For more information on this threat assessment system, visit
The process for threat assessment at LOCS ensures that all threats are taken seriously and investigated and that throughout the process the safety and well-being of students and staff are a top priority. Threats are then categorized as either transient or substantive.
“Reported threats, if those are made aware to building staff, are identified in two different models: one is a transient threat. That is something that, taken seriously, after investigation and following the research-based process, it is determined that that is not a serious threat and can be addressed immediately,” said Towlerton. “The second one, known as a substantive threat, is a more serious threat which involves a series of different processes that we go through to address that, which is coordination across all levels. Both at the building level with our central office and with local law enforcement.”
The district has partnered with outside agencies that are available to assist when needed at any school building. Partnerships include coordination with local law enforcement, communication with the prosecutor’s office and several mental health organizations.
Emergency Response
If an emergency does occur the district has worked with local law enforcement to determine best practices in a crisis situation.
In 2018, Scripps Middle School Principal David McKay and two other administrators were trained as ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) certified instructors. They then began training LOCS staff including teachers, bus drivers, secretaries and para-pros. The district began to implement ALICE protocols with students and changed lockdown emergency procedures in the spring of 2019.
Each semester, teaching staff review classroom safety checklists and all emergency drills are practiced multiple times a year.
“There are a lot of situations that could be classified as an emergency; a fire, for instance or severe weather, those types of things. So, we do a lot of training not only with our staff but with our students,” said Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Rick Arnett. “Each year the Michigan Department of Education requires that all school districts perform 10 drills per year; five of which must be fire drills, three of those must be a safety/security lockdown drill and two of those are tornado drills.”
All emergency drill reports can be found on the district website at
This year, the district has implemented a program called Stop the Bleed, a program that teaches staff how to address bleeding if a situation involving severe blood loss were to occur. There are two district nurses who have worked to train more than 800 district employees in Stop the Bleed techniques.
Additionally, about 200 staff are trained in CPR and AED.
Classrooms also have “go bags” that contain a Stop the Bleed kit, first aid, items necessary for an evacuation.
Emergency response procedures from law enforcement
“I’d like to say that from a law enforcement standpoint, we are very very fortunate in Oakland County that all our police agencies work together jointly and we train together,” said Lake Orion Police Chief Harold Rossman. “The organization that we train together (with) is called the Oakland County Tactical Response Consortium (Oak-Tac).”
Inside the schools, Lake Orion has school resource officers, Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies Joe Tolan and Jennifer Eriksen. Officers both in the school and outside of the school participate in active shooter training through Oak-Tac.
All district schools are covered by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office with the exception of Blanche Sims which falls in the LOPD coverage area.
Because there is potential for the initial response in an emergency to be just one officer before additional backup can make it to the scene, police in Lake Orion have implemented single officer training.
“We don’t wait. If there is a threat, we are trained to go into that threat,” Rossman said. “If we hear a threat somewhere in the school, that’s where we head to. If there’s another officer that arrives on scene, then we go in as a two-man (team). But I want to reassure all the parents and staff that we don’t wait, we go in and we will stop the threat.”
Rossman also explained the two “zones.” The “hot zone” is the area where the threat is at that moment. The “warm zone” is where rescue teams are needed but where the threat is not active. Rescue teams are allowed in warm zones to aid victims and help save lives.
“A long time ago, the sheriff told us time and time again, unfortunately, what happened in Oxford, he told us that that was coming, it was going to come to Oakland County someday. And he’s done nothing but try to prepare us for that,” Dooley said. “Unfortunately, we always hoped we would never have to use it but I think he prepared us well. I think I can speak for the three of us, we were all in that building just like we were trained to do.”
In the case of an emergency like an active shooter, there are several things that parents and other members of the community can do to help law enforcement and rescue teams.
Dooley said he understands that parents’ first response is that they want to get to their kids and help them, but cautions them that it could distract first responders.
“That is probably, from our perspective, one of the worst things you can do because, as we saw at Oxford, we all got out there and we had over 400 first responders at that school from over 25 agencies. So, if you can imagine trying to get all of those people in,” Dooley said. “If you can stay away, I understand you want to get there, you want to get to your kids but there will be a reunification area that will be set up and that will be set up through Lake Orion Community Schools or our website. We can’t have all the extra traffic and we can’t have parents there because it distracts us from what we’re doing if we’re trying to deal with parents.”
Within the first minute of the shooting at Oxford, the sheriff’s office received more than 100 phone calls, Dooley said.
“Every (cellphone) tower has a limit. So, I’m just going to make an example; let’s say there’s a tower and you can have 100 phone calls going at the same time on that cell tower. During an incident like this, everyone tries to make a phone call and not everyone is going to make it through. You’re going to drop them; you’re going to get cut. You’re going to get concerned, ‘I can’t talk to my student’ ‘I can’t talk to my kid’ ‘what’s going on?’,” Lt. Darren Ofiara said. “It could just be that the tower is overloaded so don’t automatically think the worst and don’t start running to the school.”
Additionally, communication made from law enforcement takes precedent when it comes to cell phone towers. So, if there are 100 people on the phone through that tower and 50 members of law enforcement make a call, police phones will override other phones using the tower and 50 of those calls that are not made by law enforcement will be dropped.
“Don’t think the worst automatically. The phones are not always going to work,” Ofiara said. “Don’t forget; you’re getting the school calling, you’re getting us calling, people who are driving down Lapeer Road calling, people at home calling. If everyone’s calling, the towers get overloaded.”
Ofiara also understands that people think they’re helping when they call 911 to give tips they heard but tells people not to call 911 unless you have actual exact information about the situation. Don’t call to ask for information, only call if you have information to provide, like if you know who the suspect is, where they are, what they’re wearing or where they’re going next, he said.
Another thing to remember is that if there is an active threat, law enforcement’s first responsibility is to locate and stop the threat.
“Another glaring thing, again, this is the bad thing and I apologize but I’m the one who has to talk about it, is…we’re going in whether it’s one person, four persons, three persons. It’s our job to stop (the threat), plain and simple. That’s what it is, we go to where the target it. So, Lord forbid, if someone is hurt on the ground or you’re hurt on the ground, we will pass you by immediately to stop what’s going on. Our first business is to stop the threat, make sure there’s no other threat and then we make sure everyone is safe,” said Ofiara. “We care, but the problem is we have to stop it immediately to make sure no one else gets hurt.”
Kirby spoke about the LOCS side of communication.
“The thing that’s really important to understand is that every situation is specific and unique. That’s very difficult for people to understand sometimes but we do know that exposure to traumatic news and prolonged social media creates unnecessary trauma and those who receive (it), they have a tendency to personalize it when they hear things. So, we really try to keep that in mind working with our communication,” Kirby said. “We ask ourselves, is there something actual to the audience it’s sent to before we actually send out communications. We want the information that we’re providing to actually make a difference to those individuals, not just share what’s going on, but if it’s something that you need, we want to make sure we get you that information right away.”
Kirby reiterated that false reports also make for unnecessary trauma though the district still investigates all threats.
“Many of those are from other countries, just so you know that. It’s very unfortunate but it is something that we’ve learned through all of this,” Kirby said.
School districts are also limited in what information they can legally provide due to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
“That really prohibits us as a school district from providing information publicly to those that aren’t directly involved with the student,” said Kirby. “That’s why we can’t share discipline and those kinds of things when something happens to a student specifically. Those individuals who are directly involved in the situation are informed but during the incident investigation, if they’re seen as a target, as a victim, then certainly families would be communicated with during the investigation. If a safety threat is broad and can impact the classroom or school, we would communicate to those groups.”
District-wide communication would occur if there was uncertainty around the impact of the threat, or if there was a substantive threat or recommendation from law enforcement or local agency.
Kirby encouraged parents to make sure to sign up for the district’s text alert system through school messenger. “It’s the same system that we use for snow days but that’s how we would communicate.”

Other topics

A number of parents and community members submitted questions to the district that they would like to have answered but were not included in the main portion of the presentation including grant opportunities, window coverings, armed guards and after school activities.

According to Fitzgerald, LOCS does take advantage of grants when they are available and is currently participating with Michigan State Police on receiving a number of grants available.

Fitzgerald also mentioned that the district is currently researching adding safety film on windows, which they hope to be able to procure using grant money.

Outside visibility is something that bond architects have been studying as they design new secure entry ways, a new early childhood center and an entire new elementary school, Goodman said.

“Both from our service people, our local law enforcement and our architects said we need to focus on building schools for education,” said Goodman. “What’s big in education is natural light, getting outside and being part of the environment. Within that though, we still want to make sure our buildings are as secure as possible so that goes into our three-rings that we talked about this evening as well as we will do things within our classrooms with these windows where we have shades that we can drop during an event and other areas. But it’s important to know that we are building schools, we’re not building jails.”

Moreover, armed guards are not something that LOCS is looking into at this time.

“This is one, that research has shown, can have a negative effect on the psychology of students,” Kirby said. “The JAMA Network did a 2021 study that found that not only did the presence of the armed guards not correlate with fewer injuries but the death rate was 2.8 times greater in school shootings that had armed guards.”

Currently, LOCS has two school resource officers, as was mentioned previously. One which is stationed at the high school and another that is split between the three middle schools. Though some schools do not have SROs on sight, the OCSO does have designated officers for those schools and the LOPD is roughly one minute away from Blanche Sims Elementary.

Lastly, after school activities and events regularly and often have Safe Ed employees in attendance and depending on the district need OCSC officers are also in attendance.

“Ultimately, if our buildings are open there is someone responsible for that facility,” Kirby said.

Kirby also noted that he anticipates the district making changes to their policy regarding renting space at district facilities to make sure they can have better communication with people coming into the building.

Kirby’s commitment to safety and security is shown through much of the work he does outside of the district where he has attended the national safety summit, was part of the Oakland County school safety summit, is part of a statewide advisory group where he is one of six superintendents that gives recommendations to a security consultant firm, works on the Michigan State Police School Safety Steering Committee and a statewide MASA (My Association Safety Summit) which will be next month and also is the chair of a county superintendent safety and security committee.

“We continue to be committed to school safety every single day,” Kirby said. “The reason I share that is so that you understand this isn’t something we’re finished with, this is something that continues to evolve and I want you to know that I personally am committed, these individuals are committed and we as a district are committed to continuing to be the best school district in the state.”

Kirby finished the summit by asking parents and community members to submit any additional questions to the district through their website at The presentation and answers to other questions are also available on the district website at

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