Students at Oxford High School returned to their school building today after almost two months since their fatal school shooting.
A lot has changed since that day for schools across Michigan, including here in northern Michigan.
“I think we all look at things differently now because the cliche is that, ‘this can happen anywhere’,” said Kalkaska Public Schools Superintendent Rick Heitmeyer.
Superintendent Heitmeyer says the school shooting at Oxford High School in November hit too close to home.
“Every time it happens, we talk in our schools, with other superintendents, with a lot of people about how this could happen anywhere,” he said. “But when it happens a couple hours away, ‘anywhere’ sounds a lot closer.”
The same for Cadillac Area Public Schools Superintendent Jennifer Brown.
“Any time there’s an event like that, whether in a school or community, it definitely brings different emotions to the surface,” she said, “Certainly shock and sadness were my original reaction.”
Immediately after the shooting, there were a few major points both superintendents wanted to address.
“Right after an incident like that, it’s really just checking in on our people,” said Superintendent Brown. “Checking in with our students and our staffing and making sure you’re ok.”
Superintendent Heitmeyer, along with every other school in the state, reviewed their school safety protocols.
“We had a conversation with our local law enforcement, and talked to them about our procedures and our policies,” he said. “We all feel like we have some good things in place already, but it’s always good to take another look at that.”
For Cadillac Area Public Schools, they were among the dozens of schools that received threats after the shooting.
“Post Oxford was really more like an open wound for everybody and unnerving,” said Superintendent Brown. “Not necessarily abnormal, there have been threats post events in the past, but we certainly were working with law enforcement closely through those instances.”
For both superintendents, continuing to stress to students, and the community, about the consequences when making false threats is important to them.
“We’re at a point, again, where people have to understand where schools have to take these very seriously,” said Rick Heitmeyer. “That’s a tough thing for kids to understand because we heard for a long time, ‘I didn’t mean it I was just joking.’ You can’t joke anymore.”