“There is no bite if they don’t signal”

In the wake of the Oxford High School Shooting, questions about what happens at school after students drop off were all over the place.

Considering how few law enforcement agencies already know what happens after the first bell rings, the responses are alarming.

“In one of the studies or research that I read in a community, it was shown that for every major incident a young person was involved in at least five to seven minor incidents that went unreported,” said Michigan State Lieutenant Colonel Chris Kelenske. The school safety police office said.

Read: What you need to know about the new safety measures at Oxford community schools

By law, school districts must report incidents or attempted incidents for a whole range of crimes. Under state law it is not defined what these crimes are, but state police keep track of everything from physical or sexual assault to theft to arson. These need to be reported to the MSP within 24 hours, but the problem is, they don’t happen.

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In 2020, Michigan State Police said only 4% of schools were following the law. This lack of reporting makes the job of the MSP’s School Safety Office, which uses these numbers to track dangerous trends in schools even more difficult.

“We received information from 150 schools. So the law says it’s mandatory, but there’s no bite if they don’t report it, ”said Nancy Becker-Bennett of the MSP OSS.

The MSP knows it is missing numbers due to the state’s OK2Say whistleblowing line – where thousands of tips about possible crimes are reported by thousands of students each year. In 2020, more than 37,000 reports of crimes and threats were sent from across the state.

Read: OK2SAY Hotline Collects Anonymous Reports of Michigan Schools Crime and Threats

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Local 4 has attempted to obtain reports for each individual district statewide, but they are exempt from requests for public records. What could be released is a breakdown of the number of times police have been called to schools across the state since 2017, meaning the data showed there had been more than 1,800 thefts in 2017 or nearly 400 aggravated assaults on schools in 2019, but there was no way of knowing which schools these crimes took place.

MSP officials said they share its findings with members of the Michigan Department of Education – who sit on the state’s school safety board – at least 4 times a year. When we asked if the ministry was keeping track of the incidents or communicating with the MSP about them, MDE spokesman Martin Ackerly said in a one-word email: “No.”

In a follow-up email, Ackerly said districts are required to log certain incidents on their websites and, regarding the incident reports the department receives, he said, “MDE is not getting these numbers from the MSP unless we ask for them. Then we get the same report that is submitted to the school safety board.

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Experts also fear that more problems are brewing this school year, a worrying thought if 96% of schools do not report as they should.

“I think we’ve had a lot of trauma for the kids,” said Amy Klinger of the Educators School Safety Network.

ESSN is a national group that lists states of concern for threats such as school shootings or bombings based on the number of news reports. In their most recent report in 2018, Michigan was # 1 on this list and worries things will get worse as kids return to in-person learning.

“Children who return to school have more needs that are more in crisis than ever. So I think there’s a potential for things to go really bad, ”Klinger said.

So all of this begs the question, what more can be done to prevent another crisis, another tragedy, where children should be the safest?

“What happens in the next 2, 3, 4 years will depend on the decisions we make over the next few years,” Klinger said.

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“I think it’s so essential for us to deal with some of these issues collectively as a group, so that we can really help these students be successful,” Kelenske said.

The MSP insists that schools are still incredibly safe places to send children and just because a school doesn’t signal that it isn’t taking safety seriously.

In the wake of what we’ve seen, getting more schools to report, so law enforcement can stay ahead of more trends, can make schools everywhere safer.

Read: More coverage on threats at school

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