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Posted on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

After Connecticut school shooting, Ann Arbor-area districts assess security, reassure parents

By Danielle Arndt


Mourners gather for a candlelight vigil outside the Edmond Town Hall, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, in Newtown, Conn. A gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Friday and opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children.

AP Photo/David Goldman

Ann Arbor-area schools Monday tried to be extra sensitive to students' needs and made plans to review their security procedures in the wake of the deadly Connecticut school shooting Friday.

Email blasts, robocalls, administrative meetings and discussions with police officers all have been employed to assure Washtenaw County students are safe and parents know it.

Schools took varied approaches in discussing with students the attack at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Friday that left 27 dead, including 20 children.

Administrators at Ann Arbor Public Schools first made contact with parents and staff Friday afternoon.

"We continued to speak with principals throughout the weekend and have a meeting this morning (Monday) as administration to discuss what else we should be doing," said district spokeswoman Liz Margolis.

Margolis said AAPS plans to continue to assess its safety plans.


Liz Margolis

The email messages that several Washtenaw County districts sent out Friday were similar.

"Each school has a safety plan in place," the emails to Ann Arbor and Saline's school communities read. "This plan includes a heightened awareness from the main office staff and by our school staff. School doors are, in general, locked during the school day, except for the front doors.

"Teachers and staff members have classroom safety plans with instructions in each classroom that are reviewed frequently. There are staff members trained in crisis response and CPR in each building. Many staff members also have participated in staged training exercises in response to potential school emergencies."

But the schools' approaches to addressing the incident in the classroom have varied slightly.

AAPS sent out a discussion sheet to the community during the weekend with guidelines for parents and teachers on how to address the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting with children.

The advice included describing the basic facts of the incident without making editorial comments or assumptions.

Other general considerations the district listed for leading post-crisis talks were to listen to children, explore their fears, validate appropriate feelings and emphasize the teacher's availability to discuss it further with children, if necessary.

The information sheet originally was compiled a few years ago by the Prevention and Community Response Unit of the Washtenaw Public Health Department. That unit unfortunately no longer exists, said public health spokeswoman Susan Cerniglia.

The sheet also contains common reactions to tragedy among children of various age groups and appropriate responses from adults.

Willow Run Community Schools also gave this information to its staff during the weekend and is sending it home with every elementary child today, said Superintendent Laura Lisiscki.

Saline Area Schools has taken a slightly more hands-off approach.

Steve Laatsch, district spokesman and assistant superintendent of instructional services, said officials have solicited feedback from their community on how to address the issue of school safety, as well as the news of the shooting.

"We've really tried to respond to parents' wishes and concerns," Laatsch said. "Some of our parents really want to address this at home with their children in their own way."

He said if students do start asking questions about the tragedy in class or seem distressed, teachers are trained to offer them the extra support of building social workers or counselors.

"Teachers also can tell children this is something we can talk about in private," Laatsch said. "We don't want to squash conversations, but we want be sensitive to the fact that some parents want to handle these sensitive topics. So we can also encourage the children to talk to their moms and dads."

Saline administrators plan to be extra vigilant about being visible in the schools this week before the holiday break, Laatsch said.

"We're really going to try to be out there at the beginning of school and at the end of school and in the hallways during the transition periods," he said.

After school resumes in January, district administrators also plan to meet to discuss what some of the additional next steps are that the district can take to be even more secure.

"When something like (a school shooting) happens, there's an uneasiness," Laatsch said. "We're concerned by the idea that we may never be able to put up enough safeguards to guarantee everything. And that's unsettling to all of us."

Dedrick Martin.jpg

Dedrick Martin

Dedrick Martin

At Ypsilanti Public Schools, officials sent out a robocall to parents Friday afternoon and posted a letter on the district's website over the weekend, said Superintendent Dedrick Martin.

The letter provided a list of links to resources to help families address the tragedy with their children. It also encouraged parents to monitor their children's intake of media coverage of the event and to help them process their thoughts and feelings.

Martin said the district's teachers, social workers and counselors are trained to address the wide range of emotions that students could experience in the wake of something so senseless and horrific.

"Some students will want to talk about it more than others. Our teachers are certainly equipped to handle these discussions. And other children will want to have these conversations at home," Martin said. "Our teachers understand the benefit of not artificially forcing a conversation (on the shooting) but to be aware of what their students need."

Martin said if a conversation in a classroom becomes too heavy, the teacher can stop it and encourage students who need more dialogue and information to seek out school psychologists.


Mary Marshall

Dexter Community Schools took an approach similar to the one in Saline in trying to make administrators more visible in the schools Monday and to observe students' demeanors and distress levels.

"We have teams of people in every building who are trained to determine whether concerns need to be addressed on an individual level or in a broader systemic way," said Superintendent Mary Marshall. "In general, what we are finding is that kids are fine to come to school today."

She said administrators will meet Tuesday morning to review the district's security plans.

"When anything like this occurs we use it as an opportunity for us to say what can we improve in the systems we already have in place and is there a new layer of security or process that we can add," she said.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:49 p.m.

SAFETY FEATURES: I am glad to note that each school building has a plan to ensure safety of its students. I have concerns about safety at a few of our elementary schools like, 1. Angell, 2. Burnspark, 3. Haisley, 4. Bach, and 5. Pattengill. These School buildings may not have adequate number of fire/emergency exit doors to get children out of the building in case of an emergency. I would like to know if the District has any options to increase the number of fire/emergency exit doors at these buildings.


Wed, Dec 19, 2012 : 6:44 p.m.

I fully agree with you. A safety feature like a fire/emergency exit door if not properly secured could be used by criminal elements to gain illegal entry into the building. Similarly, all glass windows that are not properly secured could be used to access the building. At our Ann Arbor School buildings, most burglars use windows that are not properly shut. But, for that reason, we cannot dispense with windows and the need for natural light and illumination. Elementary School kids because of their tender age need special safety features to ensure speedy evacuation from the building. Logan Elementary School has fire/emergency exits for all of its class rooms. Other elementary school buildings can add fire exits for most of the class rooms.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

every emergency ext can also be an unsecured point of entry...just saying.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:04 p.m.

With the Governor's pen poised over the concealed carry reform bill, it will be interesting to see how the outcome of that affects this. In my view, if a concealed carry permit holder is trusted with a gun in a grocery store, there is nothing magical about stepping onto school property that suddenly transforms him into a raving lunatic. Although it seems far-fetched that it would actually happen, if there is any chance a good guy with a gun can save my child's life in a Sandy Hood situation, I want that option. The only thing we can be certain of is that this will happen again. What he have been doing hasn't worked. If the bill is signed we may actually get a security dividend from the fact that the perps will now have to wonder if somebody at the school is armed. It may give them pause. I think it's worth a try. If the bill is vetoed then we are going to have to limit access, install metal detectors, hire armed guards, etc. The schools are going to look like prisons.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:30 p.m.

Sorry about the typos


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:52 p.m.

AAPS took took AAPD school resource officers out of the highschools for the first time in decades because they didnt want to pay for them anymore. Doesn't sound like they are going in the right direction safety wise to me.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:31 p.m.

Lunatics have always been with us. The only difference today is that they seem to have unlimited access to assault type rifles ... and violent, realistic video games. My prediction is that besides having access to assault weapons, Mrs. Lanza's little Adam spent most of his waking moments playing violent video games. To all you parents out there who have 20+ year-old basement trolls (plenty in A2, I'd guess), pay attention to what they are up to even if they are past the age of majority. If they are living under your roof, you have the right to know ... as well as to insist the trolls make lifestyle changes or else move out. Maybe contacting the authorities for an intervention with your troubled children may help avoid these schools incidents as well? Parents and relatives, it's up to you to let the authorities know about these loose cannons!


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:09 p.m.

Sorry about the typos

Atticus F.

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

A lot of the people who are calling for guns in our schools seem to have this macho, grandiose fantasy of Mrs. Applebee pulling out a 9mm, doing a back flip, and then thwarting a tragedy with pinpoint accuracy. Get a grip on reality. Arming teachers is not the answer. Disarming crazy people seems more appropriate.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:56 p.m.

+1 on disarming people with mental issues! but where do you come up with these "macho" comments? I dont know a single CPL holder or gun owner who ever wishes to have to use their firearm in anger... if you look at the FACTS, you know, what actually happens in real life, you'll see that these cowards shoot themselves as soon as ANY armed resistance presents itself. CT, as soon as police showed up he killed himself, OR, as soon as a CPL holder drew on him, the next shot he fired was into his own head. hmmm, see a trend here? How many of these cowards go to places where there is a good change someone will have a gun? hmmm??? are you ok with a police officer in a school? why is that? bec they have "background checks?" bec they have "training?" So what makes them better than a teacher who has EXACTLY the same? I wonder what that brave woman in CT would say if you asked her if she could do it again, if she'd want training and to be able to carry a gun vs. running at a guy with her bare hands...


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

The simple fact is that in a free society, you cannot guarantee the security and safety of 100% of the people 100% of the time. It just isn't possible. The best you can do is institute enough deterrents to give people the *impression* of safety while discouraging all but the most determined lawbreakers. Even in a prison, where guards have 100% control over the population, who are armed, where there are steel doors - beatings, murders, and rapes occur. You can find drugs and alcohol at a moment's notice. People are simply too crafty.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 6:40 p.m.

FormerMichRes- Give me a Colt Model 1860 Army revolver with ten quick-change cylinders and line up 60 watermelons 30 yards away and I'll show you the damage you can do without any of the things you've mentioned.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 4:36 p.m.

True, but as a Society, we can do some common sense things like restrict public access to assault weapons, 16 shot pistols, etc.

Jeffersonian Liberal

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:35 p.m.

With all of the mis-wired spoiled brats raised by the progressive parents here, I'll put money on Ann Arbor making the news soon. The lack of discipline around hear is amazing. These little monsters don't know the meaning of the word no.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

+1 But I bet they can tell you when their next babysitter is coming out (re: next Xbox game!).


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:27 p.m.

Here is a GREAT short read on school safety (note: this isn't about guns)


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

Michigan allows all 350k CPL holders to go to schools (k-12), churches now, they CANNOT conceal their firearms. The new law will allow those that have a ECPL only go concealed on to schools and church. Unfortunately, the new law will further villify and make criminals out of other wise harmless individuals just like New York did to a KY school teacher, an active duty Navy Seal, and several others.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 3:30 a.m.

If my child was in AAPS, Id be asking a LOT more questions and demanding more solutions... So theyre basically saying that they dont have a plan.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

No, but a larger police force would be a good start! An officer in every school, or officers dedicated to ONLY protecting schools (i.e. they drive from school to school all day long, and thats all they do). how many evac drills do they do. how secure are the entrances/exits and classroom doors? hopefully soon a principal will be allowed to protect their students. Ask the principal in CT what her thoughts on carry in school are now, that brave, brave woman charged this coward gunman with her bare

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 8:01 a.m.

What would you like? A signed guarantee from every principal that he or she will personally stop every gunman?


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:56 a.m.

Words from a respected authority from 2 years ago. REAL security will never happen while you are in denial and are placated by theatrics.

Dog Guy

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 10:56 p.m.

Has AAPS been lax, Atticus F., in not posting flashing lighted signs proclaiming "Certified Gun-free Zone" to reassure narcisso-whackjobs that these schools are a barrier-free route to fame? Even a rumor or possibility of armed opposition would divert such miscreants to a church or library if they could find either.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 11:07 p.m.

Not Ann Arbor's Libraries, where concealed carriers are welcomed in the Patronage rules. And when's the last time there was a shootout at an AADL? right NONE.

Atticus F.

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 10:15 p.m.

How come Rick Snyder thinks its acceptable to carry a gun to school? We should have a ZERO tolerance law as it regards to bring guns to School!

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 7:44 p.m.

"The fact that a CPL holder stopped the Oregon mall shooting from becoming even more of a human tragedy has to be one of the most under-reported stories of this year." So under-reported, in fact, that the sheriff doesn't know it. He thinks the shooting at the mall stopped when the shooter's gun jammed. Someone ought notify him of the facts.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

I have to agree with you Navy


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Mitch - The fact that a CPL holder stopped the Oregon mall shooting from becoming even more of a human tragedy has to be one of the most under-reported stories of this year. It simply does not fit into the narrative that "there's nothing we can do to stop gun violence except to eradicate guns."


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

The Oregon Mall shooting stopped because of someone using the tools available to stop an active shooter. A handgun just shown stopped the shooter. Saving the remaining lives.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:16 p.m.

Great idea, lets let the Zombie like that dummy in CT shoot up another school.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 10:27 p.m.

And yet every mass shooting at a school was not odd What's that definitions of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Now have the courage and logic to do something different. Something that other cultures do and have had good results with.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:51 p.m.

Sandy Hook had a plan, supposedly a good one. Like the TSA, the school plans are a joke in the face of an armed and determined whack job. Hide and hope for the best is NOT a good plan.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:29 p.m.

I think paying for institutions where the insane can be kept away from society would do a lot to help prevent this. We have prisons for criminals to prevent them from harming society... and most "criminals" don't go out and kill 30 people. All the planning in the world for events like this are only going to improve PR for authorities and evidence collection/crime scene management after the fact. They wont help save lives... though parents might get helpful tweets. #Yourkidsclassiscurrentlybeingslaughterd Would that actually help? How about using the schools to help identify these people before they get this far down the path to crazy land. If intensive inpatient intervention + drugs doesnt work, then stick them in an institution where they cant harm anyone. Nurse Ratchett had the right idea about some people (no not Jack Nicholsons character). There are some people out there who are intensely dangerous and there is nothing that can be done to protect society from them if they are freely living in it (with both of their frontal lobes)


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

Apparently this shooter had some issues that his parents were aware of and she took him to a shooting range -- not a good idea. Indeed, we do need more help for those who are mentally impaired and it is not prison. The closing of the mental health institutions only ended up in putting most of those individuals on the streets. I say instead of that, let's help them with reopening hospitals that will help them and their families assuring them all that they are safe.

Macabre Sunset

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 7:59 a.m.

How many kids who will never turn violent do we have to lock up to ensure full protection under your plan? We have a tendency to overreact to major tragedies.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

And...not in this state at least. Governor Engler put the mentally ill on the streets to fend for themselves long ago. Part of that GOP I'm not paying for your social program mentality I guess..


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

Pre-crime for the mentally ill is verboten but punishing the law abiding by confiscating and banning guns is ok, right?


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:36 p.m.

Except most of these mass shooters are first time offenders. You can't lock somebody up for "pre-crime" unless there's evidence they are truly a threat.

Dog Guy

Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:14 p.m.

As a teacher and as a parent of AAPS graduates, I would be more reassured if school counselors, coaches, science teachers, and administrators were reported to carry Empathy Colts and Motivational Smiths.

Urban Sombrero

Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:22 a.m.

Even trained people----cops and military people, who hold weapons daily, train on them for hours, weeks, months, etc., who can load a gun blindfolded and hit a target precisely while practicing-----even those TRAINED people have been known to seize up in a stressful/pressure situation. Or, to hit the wrong target while shooting under fire. If the trained PROFESSIONALS can, and do, make mistakes, how can we expect people who only use weapons occasionally to not only hold up under fire but to hit a target accurately? Adding more guns isn't the solution. Especially not to individuals who don't have advanced training in their usage in a high pressure situation.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 6:52 p.m.

And State legislation allowing everyone but the children to come into school packed.


Tue, Dec 18, 2012 : 1:41 p.m.

Are you really that deluted to think the dealers are not at our high schools with out a gun?


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 8:07 p.m.

The article was about measures taken to reassure parents that the schools were secure. Not mentioned was the State legislation [enabling ADULTS to carry weapons into schools]. Not mentioned either was lack of legislation empowering parents to treat problem kids. When a kid sets off surprise firecrackers, or worse, for show&tell what should the teacher do? When a teacher is laid off what should the principle do? When the contract hires for meals, wheels, janitors, and coaches get upset what should the parents do? Just wait for next year's Huron Pioneer football game to see some real school security at work.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:22 p.m.

What does that have to do with anything? The Sandy Hook shooter was too young to own a pistol (according to federal law) so he could NOT have legally owned those guns or the permit to carry them into the school. Legally he was "children" as far as the feds are concerned.


Mon, Dec 17, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

What does that have to do with anything? The Sandy Hook shooter was too young to own a pistol (according to federal law) so he could have legally owned those guns or the permit to carry them into the school. Legally he was "children" as far as the feds are concerned.